This summer, the FDA convened a panel of scientific advisers to evaluate the suicide risks of 11 antiseizure drugs, including Neurontin. Crunching data from 210 clinical trials, the agency found a small increased risk: Two of 1,000 patients taking the medications experienced suicidal thoughts or behavior. When millions of people are taking a drug, even such slim odds can have consequences.
The advisory panel accepted the FDA's findings, but voted against imposing the government's strongest warning on the drugs, saying that could do more harm than good. The FDA is considering how to communicate the risks to patients.
"Whether or not any of these drugs cause suicidal thoughts and behavior is the critical question we need to answer; up to now, we have not answered that," said Kelly Posner, a Columbia researcher who led the effort to develop the screening system. "Debunking false notions of risk is just as important to the public health as knowing about risks that exist."