Image by braineater via FlickrTwo years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published information showing that people taking anticonvulsant medications, drugs used to treat epilepsy, have twice the risk of suicidal behavior and suicidal thoughts.
Context In 2008, the US Food and Drug Administration mandated warning labeling for anticonvulsant medications regarding the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The decision was based on a meta-analysis not sufficiently large to investigate individual drugs.
Objective To evaluate the risk of suicidal acts and combined suicidal acts or violent death associated with individual anticonvulsants.
Design A cohort study of the risk of suicidal acts and combined suicidal acts or violent death in patients beginning use of anticonvulsant medications compared with patients initiating a reference anticonvulsant drug.
Setting and Patients Patients 15 years and older from the HealthCore Integrated Research Database (HIRD) who began taking an anticonvulsant between July 2001 and December 2006.
Main Outcome Measures Cox proportional hazards models and propensity score–matched analyses were used to evaluate risk of attempted or completed suicide and combined suicidal acts or violent death, controlling for psychiatric comorbidities and other risk factors, among individual anticonvulsants compared with topiramate and secondarily carbamazepine.
Results The study identified 26 completed suicides, 801 attempted suicides, and 41 violent deaths in 297 620 new episodes of treatment with an anticonvulsant (overall median follow-up, 60 days). The incidence of the composite outcomes of completed suicides, attempted suicides, and violent deaths for anticonvulsants used in at least 100 treatment episodes ranged from 6.2 per 1000 person-years for primidone to 34.3 per 1000 person-years for oxcarbazepine. The risk of suicidal acts was increased for gabapentin (hazard ratio [HR], 1.42; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.11-1.80), lamotrigine (HR, 1.84; 95% CI, 1.43-2.37), oxcarbazepine (HR, 2.07; 95% CI, 1.52-2.80), tiagabine (HR, 2.41; 95% CI, 1.65-3.52), and valproate (HR, 1.65; 95% CI, 1.25-2.19), compared with topiramate. The analyses including violent death produced similar results. Gabapentin users had increased risk in subgroups of younger and older patients, patients with mood disorders, and patients with epilepsy or seizure when compared with carbamazepine.
Conclusion This exploratory analysis suggests that the use of gabapentin, lamotrigine, oxcarbazepine, and tiagabine, compared with the use of topiramate, may be associated with an increased risk of suicidal acts or violent deaths.