"Suicide warning over ADHD drug",
BBC News, September 29, 2005,
Children on a medicine for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may
be at increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviour, UK experts
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is warning
doctors to be on the look out for warning signs.
It received 11 reports of suicidal thoughts or behaviour among an
estimated 15,000 users of Strattera in the UK last year - mainly
Experts told parents not to be alarmed, saying the drug benefited many.
For the majority of children on Strattera (atomoxetine), the drug's
benefits outweigh any risk and they should continue on the treatment,
Doctors and patients, together with parents and guardians, are being
advised of this risk and should be made aware of any possible signs and
symptoms as a precautionary measure.
Updated warnings will be put on the drug's patient information leaflet.
The news follows recent reports of concerns about potential suicidal
side effects of commonly used antidepressants among children and
Dr June Raine of the MHRA said: "We are advising healthcare
professionals that patients should be carefully monitored for signs of
depression, suicidal thoughts or suicidal behaviour and referred for
alternative treatment if necessary.
"Children who are doing well on this medication should continue their
"Those who experience any unusual symptoms, or are concerned, should
speak to their doctor to discuss the best course of action."
The drug is one of many used to help control the symptoms of ADHD -
inability to pay attention and impulsiveness and hyperactivity.
It was licensed in the UK in July 2004 and can be given to children
aged six upwards.
The most commonly prescribed treatment for those with ADHD, however,
remains the stimulant Ritalin (methylphenidate).
Andrea Bilbow, chief executive of the ADHD charity ADDISS, said: "The
risk is very small. The benefits still likely outweigh any risk.
"Parents should not be alarmed. If a child is on Strattera and doing
well, don't stop.
"If they are concerned, they should go and discuss this with their
doctor. And doctors should be screening users for suicidal thoughts."
She said because of the nature of ADHD, many children with the
condition were already vulnerable and at risk of suicidal thoughts and
should be monitored regularly anyway.
"These kids what ever drug they are on do need to be monitored more
She said around 40,000 children in England and Wales had been diagnosed
with ADHD and were on some form of medication for the condition.
However, because ADHD is under-recognised, as many as 400,000 could
actually have the condition, or 5% of children.
The drug's manufacturer Eli Lilly said that while suicidal thinking was
uncommon in patients on the medication during clinical trials, it was
important for parents to be aware that it can occur and to discuss any
unusual symptoms with their child's doctor.
The drug Strattera has also been linked to liver damage.