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Teen suicides unaffected by anti-depressants ban

By Lilian Anekwe

Restrictions on the prescribing of anti-depressants to teenagers are failing to curb suicide rates, a new study shows.

UK regulators warned GPs against prescribing anti-depressants to teens in 2003 after concerns emerged from clinical trials of an increased risk of suicides.

Anti-depressant use in under 18 year olds halved after the warnings. But new research shows that though the rate of suicide among 15 to 19 year olds fluctuated to varying degrees in the 22 countries analysed between 1990 and 2006, there was ‘no consistent change' in the rate if suicide after the restrictions came into place in 2003.

The research team from the University of Bristol, which includes a member of the MHRA's pharmacovigilance expert advisory group, concluded that 'there was no evidence of an overall effect on suicides of regulatory action to restrict prescribing of SSRIs to young people.'

Lead researcher Dr Ben Wheeler, a research fellow in social medicine at the University of Bristol, said there was 'no clear evidence for a beneficial effect of the regulatory activity on suicide rates amongst young people.'

Dr Wheeler told Pulse: 'We found no clear evidence of a beneficial effect on population suicide rates. However, and equally importantly, we did not find evidence of an adverse effect on suicide rates either.

'This is important, because many mental health workers and researchers have been concerned that reduced antidepressant prescribing to children might inadvertently lead to an increase in suicides.'

The study if published online in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.

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