Cody Miller was a high school football player who was allergic to ragweed. Douglas Briggs was a doctor coping with pain from an old back injury.
Both are now dead, hanging victims driven to suicide, their families believe, when drugs prescribed to relieve physical symptoms upset their mental and emotional balance.
Federal drug regulators are investigating to see if the families could be right.
Until now, the Food and Drug Administration’s attention to the suicide risks of medications has focused on psychiatric drugs, such as antidepressants prescribed to youngsters. But this year, officials unexpectedly broadened their concerns to include a medication for asthma, drugs for controlling seizures and even one for quitting smoking. Those are medical conditions not usually associated with psychiatric disorders.
Several independent experts say the safety alarms point to a gap in the FDA’s knowledge of how drugs affect the brain. Even if medications are intended for physical conditions, some drugs can have unforeseen consequences if they are able to enter the brain. A group at Columbia University has developed a method for assessing the suicide risks of drugs, possibly helping identify risks before a medication goes on the market. But the FDA only requires use of such assessments on a case-by-case basis.
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