Bipolar News

April 23, 2005

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A difficult child or a bipolar disorder?
Lincoln Journal Star - Lincoln,NE,USA
... It took eight years for the Byerses finally to get the official diagnosis on Heather -- bipolar disorder -- more commonly known as manic-depression. ...

Woman killed herself after leaving hospital.

Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England); 4/22/2005

Byline: Katie Campling ,

Psychiatric patient took overdose

A MARSDEN woman killed herself five days after being released from a psychiatric unit, an inquest heard.

Coroner Roger Whittaker held an inquest for Caroline Jane Gunn, who died at home at Netherley Drive, Marsden.

Ms Gunn, 36, died from an overdose of lithium and quetiapine on August 7.

Dr Mary Courteney, a psychiatrist at Barnsley District Hospital, said she had been prescribed the drugs for bipolar affective disorder - or manic depression. She alternated between severe depression and excessively elevated moods, known as mania.

The inquest heard Ms Gunn was admitted to the hospital in April last year as a voluntary psychiatric patient.

She had started showing signs of mania

and had developed an alcohol problem.

She was allowed to leave the hospital but she kept drinking excessively, so after six weeks she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act

and was not allowed to leave the hospital on her own .

She had a history of self- harm and in hospital she cut herself with a razor blade.

Ms Gunn's condition improved and she appealed against being sectioned to a Mental Health Tribunal.

She was allowed to leave hospital on August 2 and moved to live at Netherley Drive with partner Howard Sutcliffe, who she had been seeing since February 2004.

On August 6, after visiting Ms Gunn's parents,

Mr Sutcliffe and Ms Gunn got back to Marsden at around 9pm.

Ms Gunn, who had been drinking earlier, had another two glasses of wine at home.

She and Mr Sutcliffe talked about an earlier argument, but ended up rowing again.

By 11.30pm, Ms Gunn had calmed down and went to bed. Mr Sutcliffe stayed up and checked on her at 1am.

He then fell asleep on the sofa and woke at 10.30am. Ms Gunn appeared to be sleeping and he left her until noon, when he took her breakfast.

He could not wake her and called 999. Paramedics arriv- ed and she was pronounced dead.

Next to the bed, Mr Sutcliffe found a bag containing Ms Gunn's medication.

Mr Sutcliffe said he had not taken Ms Gunn's threat to harm herself seriously and said she had not been drunk enough for him to be concerned when she went to bed.

Coroner Roger Whittaker

recorded that Ms Gunn killed herself while the balance of her mind was disturbed.

COPYRIGHT 2005 MGN Ltd.

Regulatory body seeking suicide data for epilepsy drugs

AP Worldstream; 4/21/2005; LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer

Dateline: WASHINGTON
The Food and Drug Administration has begun a preliminary inquiry into whether epilepsy drugs might increase the risk of suicidal behavior in some patients, particularly those who use them for psychiatric illnesses instead of seizure prevention.

Prompted in part by an attorney's claims against the leading anticonvulsant, Neurontin, the FDA last month asked makers of all epilepsy medicines to reanalyze research studies done with the drugs to see if there is any evidence of increased suicide risk.

"I don't think we have any suspicion yet that these drugs actually do that," cautioned Dr. Robert Temple, FDA's drug policy chief.

It's the same type of analysis that FDA last year ordered for antidepressants amid controversy over their use by children and teenagers _ and ultimately those drugs were linked to an increase in suicidal thoughts and actions in 2 percent to 3 percent of young patients.

In addition to use by millions of people with epilepsy, anti-seizure drugs are becoming widely used to treat psychiatric illnesses such as bipolar disorder _ also called manic depression _ as well as pain and other conditions. Some epilepsy drugs have FDA approval for various other uses, while others are prescribed "off-label."

There are reports of suicides among anti-convulsant users, most of them bipolar patients, Temple said. But without a close examination of research studies, it is impossible to tell whether a drug played a role or the disease itself was to blame, he explained, noting that between 10 and 20 percent of bipolar patients commit suicide.

But, "we are taking this matter very seriously," Dr. Russell Katz, FDA's chief of neurologic drugs, wrote New York attorney Andrew Finkelstein last week, a development first reported by The Boston Globe.

Finkelstein last summer filed a petition with the FDA asking that a black-box warning _ the FDA's toughest _ about suicide be placed on Neurontin's label. In the petition, Finkelstein cited 25 reports of suicides among Neurontin users from FDA's own database.

FDA still is investigating the petition. So last month, Finkelstein sent the agency 258 reports he had collected of suicides by people apparently taking Neurontin. Finkelstein, who in fall 2003 aired a brief national television ad searching for such cases, has filed 72 lawsuits against Neurontin manufacturer Pfizer Inc.

Finkelstein also produced a 1992 FDA review of Neurontin that called depression a potential rare side effect.

Pfizer will comply with FDA's request to reanalyze its studies, but patient data already submitted to the agency "shows no link between Neurontin and suicidal thoughts or behavior," said spokesman Paul Fitzhenry.

Neurontin is approved to particularly hard-to-control epilepsy, a very serious condition.

The FDA gave Pfizer and manufacturers of all other epilepsy drugs six months to review their databases and report back to the agency.

The whole category of epilepsy drugs "is potentially very important" in treating other serious illnesses, "and we thought we ought to know this," Temple said.

Copyright 2005, AP News All Rights Reserved

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