New study suggests antidepressants warning backfired

A new study links the safety warning on antidepressants to less use of those medications and more attempted suicides among teens.

Harvard researchers suggest people have become fearful because of the warning that antidepressants can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior. The FDA has required the black box warning, which is the most severe warning before a drug is pulled, since 2004.

Researchers found the number of teenagers using antidepressants went down by 31 percent while the number of attempted suicides among teens went up 22 percent.

The study concluded the warning itself and media coverage about the warning played a role.

"It's an excellent study," said child psychiatrist Dr. Stewart Newman.

He said he's seen the effects of the black box warning in his own practice.

"There's a great deal of misunderstanding and unnecessary fear about the perceived risk," he said.

Lines for Life Assistant Director Deborah Zwetchkenbaum said she's also heard concerns from people on crisis phone calls.

"To rule out antidepressants because of fear, I think, is a mistake," Zwetchkenbaum said. "I believe depression is an illness and a serious illness and a treatable illness, and I think that we don't want to rule out any options that might provide some alleviation of that depression."

An FDA spokeswoman said there's no reason at this point to change the warning, which she calls good advice.

"The FDA saw an important risk signal with antidepressants and we put that information in the drug labels," FDA Press Officer Sandy Walsh wrote in an email response to KATU. "The FDA has tried to balance the suicidality warning language with a reminder that depression is a serious illness that itself is the major risk factor for suicidal thoughts and actions."

Professionals all agree individuals should talk about their concerns and ask questions.

"The main thing is to work with your doctor, work with your counselor and keep the lines of communication open," Zwetchkenbaum said.

The Lines for Life crisis hotline is 1-800-923-HELP.