PFE, GSK, LLY should pop on bad suicide data for kids

Worry that antidepressants for kids were causing an up-tick in suicides forced the FDA to plan to require black box warnings on the popular antidepressant medicines.  The result since the FDA took a stand has been measurably fewer prescriptions for kids and young adults suffering from depression. The results, too, according to a CDC report, is that there has been a marked rise (8%) in suicide rates for kids.  Parallel data indicate that 10% fewer prescriptions were written for kids at the same time as suicides increased by 8%.  The new data should push doctors markedly to increase prescriptions of the most popular medicines: Prozac (LLY), Zoloft (PFE), and Paxil (GSK).

The data is all for 2004, but they capture a very troubling upward movement.  There were over 4,500 deaths of people 10 to 24 that year and an additional 140,000 visits to emergency rooms for treatment of self-inflicted wounds.  These are not small numbers.  That they have increased by 8% and have reversed a decline of almost 30% between 1990 and 2003 makes the presumptive relationship between the increase in suicides and fewer prescriptions very compelling.

The FDA is going to temper its warning and it seems certain that doctors will begin quickly prescribing the drugs with much greater frequency.  Antidepressants are big business for the big pharma and this expected change should have a positive impact on their bottom lines.

Daniel Socolow
Daniel Socolow: President, Socolow Group. Former Director of the MacArthur Fellows Program, President of the American University of Paris, Vice President of Spelman College. BA, MA, Ph.D.

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