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Regulator warns of epilepsy drug suicide risk

By Nigel Praities

New data from the UK drugs regulator reveals an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviour with antiepileptic drugs.

The warning comes after a Europe-wide review of data on antiepileptic treatments found that approximately two in every 1,000 patients experienced suicidal thoughts or behaviour.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said patients and caregivers should be advised to seek medical advice if they experienced any mood changes, distressing thoughts or any feelings about suicide.

‘Product information for all antiepileptics is being updated to reflect the most recent data and to highlight the need for monitoring of patients for the development of suicidal thoughts or behaviour,' the MHRA's Drug Safety Update for August says.

Dr Henry Smithson, GP in York and chair of the NICE epilepsy guideline group, said he was ‘remained unconvinced' the increased suicide risk was solely due to the medication, but urged GPs to still follow the MHRA advice.

‘GPs should be encouraging people with epilepsy to get medical help if they do have any of the symptoms, but they should also be told to continue their medication because the risk of stopping it is greater than the risk of continuing it,' he said.

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