The US Food and Drug Administration today announced it is issuing a Public Health Advisory on Strattera, a drug used to treat ADHD. The drug, also known as Atomoxetine, has been linked to suicidal thoughts in young people taking it and one boy is known to have attempted suicide.
FDA ALERT [09/2005] Suicidal Thinking in Children and Teens
- new or increased thoughts of suicide
- changes in mood or behavior including becoming irritable or anxious
The FDA looked at 12 short-term trials involving over 2200 children. During the first few months of treatment about 4 per 1000 children reported having suicidal thoughts. In trials of adults there were no reports about suicidal thinking. The BBC is reporting that the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has issued a similar warning. According to the BBC there have been “11 reports of suicidal thoughts or behaviour among an estimated 15,000 users“. The MHRA haven’t yet managed to get their own press release on to their own website so I can’t confirm the BBC’s figures.
Strattera [Wikipedia] uses a different approach to treating ADHD to drugs like Ritalin. Most ADHD drugs are central nervous system stimulants that help keep the user focused. Strattera is a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). This class of drugs effects the brains chemical balance by preventing norepinephrine, a chemical used in the brain, being absorbed back into the body. This raises the levels of norepinephrine which improves the brains ability to concentrate. As a treatment it only works for some patients but it is better than Ritalin style drugs because it can be used 24 hours a day and can’t be abused. The link to suicide is not surprising as Prozac which works in the same way but on serotonin rather than norepinephrine have also been linked to sucidal behaviour.
In addition to suicide, Strattera has also been linked to liver damage.
Eli Lilly, manufactures of Strattera, press release