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Asthma Health Center

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Does Asthma Increase Adult Suicide Risk?

Study Shows Link Between Asthma and Suicidal Thoughts and Actions

Asthma and Suicide continued...

The study appears in the May issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Allergy and asthma specialist Richard A. Nicklas, MD, of the George Washington Medical Center, describes the research linking asthma to suicide as preliminary and far from conclusive.

But he adds that his own patients seem to experience more depression during times when pollen counts are highest.

"That is anecdotal," he tells WebMD. "But what has been shown in studies is that there is a decrease in cognitive function -- with more fatigue, irritability and difficulty concentrating -- among patients experiencing [allergy and asthma] symptoms. Whether this is associated with something as serious as suicide, though, is another question."

Singulair and Suicide Risk

In March, the FDA announced that it would investigate reports suggesting a link between the asthma and allergy drug Singulair and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

The agency asked that the drug's manufacturer, Merck, provide additional information on behavior and mood changes and suicidal thoughts and actions among patients who participated in Singulair studies.

It also urged health care providers and patients to report side effects experienced while taking Singulair and medications belonging to the same drug class known as leukotriene-modifiers, including the asthma drugs Accolate and Zyflo.

The FDA move was immediately questioned in a joint statement issued by two of the nation's top allergy and asthma groups: the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

"There are no data from well-designed studies to indicate a link between Singulair and suicide," the statement notes. "The concern expressed by the FDA is based entirely on case reports and there is no indication that such effects apply to other leukotriene-modifying medications."

Merck spokesman Ronald Rogers tells WebMD that the FDA action stems from "a very limited number" of case reports.

He adds that there were no suicides reported among 11,000 people who took part in more than 40 clinical trials of Singulair sponsored by Merck.

"The FDA clearly stated in its communication that patients with concerns should discuss them with their doctors," he says. "A patient's own physician is in the best position to determine whether or not this drug is an appropriate medication for them."

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