Warning for Young Adults Taking Antidepressants

FDA Proposes New Warnings About Suicidal Thinking, Behavior in Young Adults Who Take Antidepressant Medications

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today proposed that makers of all antidepressant medications update the existing black box warning on their products' labeling to include warnings about increased risks of suicidal thinking and behavior, known as suicidality, in young adults ages 18 to 24 during initial treatment (generally the first one to two months).

The proposed labeling changes also include language stating that scientific data did not show this increased risk in adults older than 24, and that adults ages 65 and older taking antidepressants have a decreased risk of suicidality. The proposed warning statements emphasize that depression and certain other serious psychiatric disorders are themselves the most important causes of suicide.

"Today's actions represent FDA's commitment to a high level of post-marketing evaluation of drug products," said Steven Galson, M.D., MPH, director of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Depression and other psychiatric disorders can have significant consequences if not appropriately treated. Antidepressant medications benefit many patients, but it is important that doctors and patients are aware of the risks."

People currently prescribed antidepressant medications should not stop taking them. Those who have concerns should notify their health care providers.

The proposed labeling changes apply to the entire category of antidepressants. Results of individual placebo-controlled scientific studies are reasonably consistent in showing a slight increase in suicidality for patients taking antidepressants in early treatment for most of the medications. Available data are not sufficient to exclude any single medication from the increased risk of suicidality.

The proposed labeling update follows similar labeling changes made in 2005 that warned of a suicidality risk in children and adolescents who use antidepressants. At that time, FDA asked manufacturers to add a black box warning to the labeling of all antidepressants to describe this risk and to emphasize the need for appropriate monitoring and close observation, particularly for younger patients taking these medications. In addition, FDA directed manufacturers to develop Medication Guides, FDA-approved user-friendly information for patients, families and caregivers, that could help improve monitoring. Medication Guides are intended to be distributed at the pharmacy with each prescription or refill of a medication.

Also in 2005, FDA began a comprehensive review of 295 individual antidepressant trials that included over 77,000 adult patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders, to examine the risk of suicidality in adults who are prescribed antidepressants.