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Study Links SSRIs with Fewer Child Suicides

Model estimates 81 percent increase in early adolescent suicide without SSRIs

THURSDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recent black box warning about the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in children, a nationwide observational study suggests more SSRI prescriptions are associated with fewer suicides in children and that there might be more suicides without SSRI use, researchers report in the November issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Robert D. Gibbons, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and colleagues ranked 1996-1998 national county-level suicide data for children aged 5 to 14 years and linked those data to national antidepressant prescription rates to create a prediction model.

Over three years, there were 933 suicides in nearly 39 million children (0.8 per 100,000 per year). The model estimated 253 more suicides per year, an 81 percent increase, if no SSRIs had been prescribed. Areas with the lowest SSRI prescription rates had observed suicide rates as high as 1.7 per 100,000, while areas with the highest SSRI prescription rates had suicide rates as low as 0.7 per 100,000.

"The aggregate nature of these observational data precludes a direct causal interpretation of the results. More SSRI prescriptions are associated with lower suicide rates in children and may reflect antidepressant efficacy, treatment compliance, better quality mental health care and low toxicity in the event of a suicide attempt by overdose," the authors conclude.

One of the study authors has consulted for GlaxoSmithKline and has been an advisor to Eli Lilly and Company and Lundbeck.

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