An Update on Antiepileptic Drugs and Suicide: Are There Definitive Answers Yet?


Address correspondence to Dale C. Hesdorffer, Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center and Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University, 630 West 168th Street P & S Unit 16, New York, NY 10032. E-mail:


In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that any and all antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) might increase the risk of suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and completed suicide. Considerable confusion and concern followed regarding the use of these drugs, in general, and specifically for people with epilepsy. Recently, four publications examined suicidality and AED use among several databases and illustrated how biases affect the findings. None of the studies was able to control completely for the indication for which the AEDs were prescribed or to account for the varying intensities with which different specialists monitoring patients for suicidality. Though multiple analyses were conducted for many AEDs, no study controlled for the numerous comparisons made. The result is a multitude of contradictions in the findings across studies and even within studies, with no study providing clear or convincing support for the FDA conclusions. This review attempts to clarify the methodological issues in assessing potential associations between AED use and suicidality.