|| N A T I O N A L
N E W S
S T O R Y |
GPs ignore drug suicide warning 03 October
Doctors are ignoring advice to take young people off
antidepressant Aropax, despite warnings it could increase the
risk of suicide.
Neither Britain nor the US approve the
use of Aropax for anyone under 18, but increasing numbers of
young New Zealanders are taking the drug.
Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline wrote to New
Zealand doctors last year advising them to consider gradually
taking patients off Aropax.
The medicine was not licensed to those
under 18 and studies had not shown any benefit for that group.
The manufacturer wrote: "We cannot recommend its use."
Aropax and other drugs known as selective
serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) - which include Prozac
- came under further scrutiny last month when the US Food and
Drug Administration recommended they carry a "black box"
warning of the increased risk of suicide.
The warning is the strongest caution the
FDA can issue.
But New Zealand medicines safety
authority Medsafe has said although there were concerns about
SSRIs, the evidence was inconclusive.
The number of New Zealanders under 18
using antidepressants such as Aropax and Prozac has increased
by almost 60% since 1998 and around 24,500 prescriptions are
written for young people each year. Aropax remains the most
An Otago Medical School study published
last year linked antidepressants with 41 deaths in 2001.
New Zealand doctors say the medicine is a
treatment vital for depression and the risks need to be
balanced against the dangers of not prescribing the medicine.
Royal Australian and New Zealand College
of Psychiatrists child psychiatrist Denise Guy said it had not
been proved it was the medication rather than depression that
caused suicidal thoughts.
Half the young people who developed
depression attempted suicide.
Antidepressants such as Aropax were
effective for young people, when used with caution. "We want
to make sure we address the risk, but we want to be able to
offer intervention that works."
Wellington Child and Adolescent
psychiatrist John Lambe described SSRIs as life-saving and
said concerns the drugs made young people's moods worse were
overstated. Although he favoured Prozac, if a patient did not
respond well he would offer Aropax, despite the warning. "I
would (ignore the manufacturer's instruction) in that
Marco Marinkovich, chairman of suicide
lobby group Yellow Ribbon, said the warnings were not being
taken seriously by doctors or the government.
The secrecy surrounding suicide meant not
enough was known about the risks of the drug and more research
The public should be warned of the risks
and parents should be told when their children were given
antidepressants so they could monitor any change in moods,
Medsafe medical adviser Stewart Jessamine
said many antidepressants had warnings advising against their
use in children.
A Medsafe committee met last week to
discuss the medication and its recommendations should be
released later this month, a Health Ministry spokesman said.
»SUBSCRIBE TO FREE HEADLINES
»SUBSCRIBE TO ARCHIVESTUFF