Background: Regulatory agencies in the United Kingdom and the United States have recently issued warnings about a possible link between suicidal ideation and attempts and the use of paroxetine in a pediatric patient population. The objective of this study was to determine the proportion of youth suicides that tested positive for paroxetine or other antidepressants in medical examiner toxicologic testing in New York City from 1993 through 1998, the first 6 years that paroxetine was available in the United States.
Method: Subjects in this medical examiner surveillance study were suicides less than 18 years of age. Serum toxicology was examined for paroxetine and other antidepressants.
Results: There were 66 suicides among persons under 18 years of age in the years 1993 through 1998. Toxicology was tested in 58 (87.9%) of the 66 suicides, and 54 (81.8%) had injury-death intervals of 3 days or less. None of the victims had paroxetine detected in their blood obtained at the time of autopsy. Imipramine was detected in 2 victims and fluoxetine in another 2.
Conclusion: Despite regulatory concerns, none of the autopsies of youth suicides in New York City detected paroxetine in the victims, although other antidepressants were detected in 4 victims. However, in the vast majority of the youth suicides, there was no evidence of anti-depressant use immediately prior to death.