March 21, 2011

Panel to Examine Murder and Suicide Associated With Antidepressants

By Dr. Peter Breggin

On Saturday morning April 9th of this year, a panel discussion will be held for the public and professionals on the theme of “Psychiatric Drug Tragedies: Personal, Legal and Medical Perspectives.”

The two-hour presentation focuses on suicide and murder potentially caused by antidepressant medications. It is part of the international Empathic Therapy Conference put on by the Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy, Education & Living (April 8-10, 2011 in Syracuse, New York).

The panel will present a unique examination of an antidepressant-related suicide from three perspectives: Mathy Downing, the mother of a twelve-old-child who committed suicide; Karl Protil, the lawyer in her case, which was settled without any admission of negligence; and myself as the medical expert in the case. Mathy will be accompanied by her surviving daughter. Other family members will tell the stories of two more children who committed suicide, a father who committed suicide, and a husband who murdered his two young children—all while taking prescribed antidepressants.

A great deal is now known about suicide and violence in association with the newer antidepressants such as Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Celexa (escitalopram), Lexapro (escitalopram), Cymbalta (duloxetine), Effexor (venlavaxine), Pristiq desvenlafaxine), and Wellbutrin (bupropion).

The FDA has imposed a Black Box on all antidepressant labels that warns against the risk of suicidal behavior in children, youth and young adults. Click here to find the example of Prozac’s official prescribing information. More importantly and more broadly, the new labels also warn about the risk of aggression, hostility, mania, and an overall worsening of the individual’s mental condition, for all ages. The new FDA-approved labels also include a Medication Guide, which the FDA urges prescribers to give to patients and their families. Originally intended for children taking antidepressants, it now has no age limitation and pertains to all ages. The Medication Guide warns patients and their families to be aware of the possibility of suicidal and violent behavior, mania, and a long litany of other dangerous mental abnormalities.

The new FDA-approved antidepressant labels confirm that the risks are highest at the start of medication therapy or during changes in dose, either up or down. To a great extent, the labels read like my prior publications, one of which was given by the FDA to its outside expert committee that recommended the changes to the labels.

Unfortunately, many psychiatrists, internists, family doctors, nurse practitioners and other professionals continue to prescribe these medications, too often without providing adequate information to the patient and the family. As a result, I was asked to write about the implications of these new labels for the most widely read psychiatric journal for primary care prescribers. The panel at the Empathic Therapy Conference, the first of its kind, will explore these tragedies and put a human face on them through the presence and presentations of surviving family members.

Other aspects of the conference will describe empathic approaches to helping a wide variety of emotional conditions and problems in children and adults. Speakers will bring unique and inspiring approaches to children and adults given psychiatric diagnoses, ordinary folks who are suffering from stress, street people overcome by psychosis, military personnel recovering from PTSD and head injuries, and elderly victims of dementia. Professionals and the general public are welcome at the Empathic Therapy Conference in Syracuse, New York, April 8-10, 2011. Continuing education credits (CEs) for 29.5 hours are available.

Originally published on The Huffington Post.