Lyrica & Other Epilepsy Drugs Caused Increase in Suicidal Tendencies

Jul 2013

Anti-epilepsy drugs such as Lyrica work to prevent seizures in patients who suffer from epilepsy and are also used to treat certain health conditions. Unfortunately, many anti-epileptic drugs also have an unexpected side effect: they can increase suicidal thoughts and behaviors in patients. The consequences of this side effect can be very severe, especially if patients are not monitored carefully. Tragically, some patients taking these drugs can die by suicide as a result of the effects of the medication.  

Our Dallas suicide lawyers know that some anti-epilepsy drugs may as much as double the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in patients. Because of this side effect, physicians can potentially be held legally liable if someone taking an anti-epileptic dies by suicide. This is especially true if the deceased patient was taking the drug after the FDA mandating warning labels on the medications. The most obvious area of concern is the lack of sufficient monitoring of the patient prescribed Lyrica and other epilepsy medication.  Further physicians should warn the patient and family members, after approval by the patient, of the signs and symptoms of an increased risk for suicide.  Failure to warn and monitor appropriately is like throwing the dice with patient safety.

Suicide Risks of Antiepileptic Medications

The dangers associated with anti-epileptic medications have been apparent for a long time. Back in 2008, the New York Times wrote an article warning that patients prescribed certain anti-epileptic medications including Lyrica had double the risks of suicidal tendencies when compared with those not taking the medications. The risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among patients dosed with placebo medications was .22 percent and the risk associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors among those dosed with the anti-epileptics rose to .43 percent.

This is a significant increase, especially considering that suicidal thinking can lead to suicidal actions and death by suicide. The increased risk is also a problem because it can begin as early as the first week that the medication therapy is administered and the risk can persist for the entire time that someone takes the medications.

Unfortunately, despite the increased risk, the drugs initially lacked a warning label and, at first, the F.D.A. did not believe that it was appropriate to require a warning.

The F.D.A. conducted placebo controlled studies on the use of 11 anti-epileptic drugs to assess the risk and studied the drug’s use, not just in treating epilepsy, but also in treating other health conditions and disorders. Based on its findings, the F.D.A. issued safety alerts on both December 16, 2008 and January 31, 2009.

On May 5, 2009, the FDA issued an update mandating that manufacturers of anti-epileptic drugs and anti-convulsant drugs needed to alter their product labels to include warnings about increased risks of suicidal thoughts and actions. Manufacturers would also be required to create a medication guide in order to better explain the risks.

The medications affected that the F.D.A. required a new warning for included:

  • Carbatrol
  • Celontin
  • Depakene
  • Depakote ER
  • Depakote sprinkles
  • Depakote tablets
  • Dilantin
  • Equetro
  • Felbatol
  • Gabitril
  • Keppra
  • Keppra XR
  • Klonopin
  • Lamictal
  • Lyrica
  • Mysoline
  • Neurontin
  • Peganone
  • Stavzor
  • Tegretol
  • Tegretol XR
  • Topamax
  • Tranxene
  • Tridione
  • Trileptal
  • Zarontin
  • Zonegran
  • Generic versions of these anti-epileptic medications.

Those who lost loved ones due to suicide or who experienced harm as a result of suicidal tendencies may have a legal claim against physicians or other prescribers of these medications due to the increased risk of suicide. Those who lost a loved one or who were injured prior to the label change may be able to make their case based on the drug company’s failure to warn the public about the high risk of suicide the medicine created while others can use strict liability rules to take action against the manufacturers of the defective and dangerous drugs.

If you lost a loved one to suicide, contact the Dallas Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding drug manufacturers accountable. Call  214-618-8222.

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