Prescriptions for SSRI antidepressants are associated with a reduced suicide rate among young children, according to a study that contradicts bans and warnings on their use in children in Britain and the US.
A paper written by four American researchers - one of whom has received pharmaceutical industry funding - compared prescriptions for SSRIs with suicide rates among 5-14 year olds.
There were 933 suicides over two years. In counties with low SSRI prescribing the suicide rate was as high 1.7 per 100,000 children; in counties with high prescribing rates the rate was as low as 0.7 per 100,000, the study says. The other end of the ranges is not given.
The authors conclude: 'Our results undermine the view that SSRIs cause suicide, which was the concern that arose from the higher frequency of suicide attempt-related adverse events reported with antidepressants relative to placebo among children and adolescents in randomised controlled trials.'
In the UKmost SSRIs are now banned from being prescribed to children and adolescents, following an outcry over pharmaceutical industry suppression of trial data in 2003 suggesting an association with suicidal acts and ideation.
In the US, there are 'black box' warnings on SSRI prescriptions to children.
American Journal of Psychiatry (2006)163:1898-1904