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Is Your Pain Medicine Making You Suicidal?

Do you know someone who is on medication for migraines or chronic pain?

Is that person's suicide risk being monitored? If not, read this NOW.

Back in 2008, government officials raised concerns over the suicide risk associated with anticonvulsants, a class of drugs that includes drugs that treat migraines, chronic pain, and bipolar disorder. At the time, though, the FDA didn't have any studies to compare which drugs carried the biggest risks. So, of course, nothing much happened -- can't mess with an entire class of drugs now, can we? What would Big Pharma say to that?

Now, though, we have the results of a study that researchers say could influence medicine.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that the drugs gabapentin (brand name Neurontin), lamotrigine (Lamictal), oxcarbazepine (Trileptal) and tiagabine (Gabitril), often prescribed for pain, bipolar disorder and epilepsy, appeared to increase suicide risk significantly. Topiramate (Topomax), which is commonly prescribed for migraines, also increased the suicide risk, but less so than the other drugs.

Less of a risk than the others, but still, enough to raise red flags. A migraine drug.

Pretty scary, right?

Okay, now here's the scariest part.

The researchers said the risk is not something a doctor would necessarily pick up on in his daily practice. So, in many cases, the doctor doesn't know enough about what's going on to monitor the situation -- until it's tragically too late.

Of course, doctors are jumping to the defense of the drugs, saying the study didn't compare apples to apples, that too many conditions were included (though the researchers say they were careful to control for other factors).

One doctor from the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in New York City points out that, if bipolar disorder (one of the conditions treated by this class of drugs) is poorly controlled, there are other ways a patient might have "a bad outcome." He offers drug use and driving under the influence as examples.

Wait a minute here. You want to talk about comparing apples to apples?

How about comparing risky behavior, behavior everyone knows could land you in trouble, to using a doctor-prescribed drug that is supposed to HELP your condition. A drug that's supposed to be backed by evidence that vouches for its safety and effectiveness.

How are those two things even close to being alike? How about figuring out other ways to manage these conditions. How about these doctors take a page out of Dr. Wright's book -- alternative and natural medicine has so much to offer all of these conditions -- and the offerings won't leave your family picking up the pieces.

Christine O'Brien writes the e-letter Health eTips for Dr. Wright's Nutrition and Healing.

May 27, 2010


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