Suicidality in pediatric patients treated with antidepressant drugs

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006 Mar;63(3):332-9. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.63.3.332.


Context: There has been concern that widely used antidepressant agents might be associated with an increased risk of suicidal ideation and behavior (suicidality) in pediatric patients.

Objective: To investigate the relationship between antidepressant drugs and suicidality in pediatric patients participating in randomized, placebo-controlled trials.

Data sources: Data were derived from 23 trials conducted in 9 drug company-supported programs evaluating the effectiveness of antidepressants in pediatric patients and 1 multicenter trial (the Treatment for Adolescents With Depression Study) that evaluated fluoxetine hydrochloride.

Study selection: All placebo-controlled trials submitted to the Food and Drug Administration were eligible for inclusion. Evaluable data were derived from 4582 patients in 24 trials. Sixteen trials studied patients with major depressive disorder, and the remaining 8 studied obsessive-compulsive disorder (n = 4), generalized anxiety disorder (n = 2), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (n = 1), and social anxiety disorder (n = 1). Only 20 trials were included in the risk ratio analysis of suicidality because 4 trials had no events in the drug or placebo groups.

Data extraction: Individual patient data were available for all the trials.

Data synthesis: A meta-analysis was conducted to obtain overall suicidality risk estimates for each drug individually, for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in depression trials as a group, and for all evaluable trials combined. There were no completed suicides in any of these trials. The multicenter trial was the only individual trial to show a statistically significant risk ratio (4.62; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.02-20.92). The overall risk ratio for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in depression trials was 1.66 (95% CI, 1.02-2.68) and for all drugs across all indications was 1.95 (95% CI, 1.28-2.98). The overall risk difference for all drugs across all indications was 0.02 (95% CI, 0.01-0.03).

Conclusion: Use of antidepressant drugs in pediatric patients is associated with a modestly increased risk of suicidality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Female
  • Fluoxetine / adverse effects
  • Fluoxetine / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Placebos
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Placebos
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Fluoxetine