INDIANAPOLIS Feb. 12 — Nearly a fifth of the
volunteers testing a new antidepressant for Eli Lilly and Co. drug
have dropped out since the suicide of one of the participants, the
drug maker said.
Lilly also acknowledged Wednesday that four other suicides have
occurred during several years of human testing of duloxetine, the
main ingredient in drugs Lilly is developing to treat depression and
stress urinary incontinence.
Other antidepressants have recently been scrutinized for possible
links to suicide in young people. Earlier this month, a government
drug advisory panel said it wasn't clear that some of these drugs
lead to suicide, but until that is settled, parents and doctors need
better warnings that they may cause agitation, anxiety and hostility
in a few young patients.
In the duloxetine test, a 19-year-old former college student
hanged herself Saturday in a Lilly research lab at the Indiana
University Medical School. She had recently been weaned from a
higher-than-normal dose of the drug, a spokesman for Eli Lilly told
The Indianapolis Star.
"It's a sad fact, it's a tragic fact, that sometimes these
patients commit suicide," Lilly spokesman Rob Smith said. But the
company does not believe duloxetine played a part in the death of
Traci Johnson of Bensalem, Pa., who was described as healthy and not
suffering from depression.
The other suicides involved patients with depression. Some
activists who question the safety of antidepressants said Johnson's
death points to the drug as a possible cause.
Three participants in the study in Indianapolis and 16 volunteers
in Evansville have quit. The study still has about 100 participants,
"We clearly anticipated that a number of patients would not
continue the study," Smith said, adding that the Indianapolis-based
company would still have enough participants to complete the
The rate of suicide for depressed patients taking duloxetine is
lower than for those taking a placebo, Smith said. It also is lower
than the rate for another group of antidepressants known as SSRIs,
or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Drugs such as Prozac,
Paxil and Zoloft are SSRIs.
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