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Neurology. 2013 Nov 26;81(22):1900-6. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000436614.51081.2e. Epub 2013 Oct 30.

Temporal trends in new exposure to antiepileptic drug monotherapy and suicide-related behavior.

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From the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (VERDICT) (M.J.V.P., C.-P.W., J.V.T., E.P.F.), San Antonio; Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics (M.J.V.P., C.-P.W.), University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; Department of Medicine (M.J.V.P.), Texas A & M University, College Station; Mailman School of Public Health (D.H.), Sergievsky Center, The Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY; Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Hospital (The Center for Health Quality, Outcomes and Economic Research [CHQOER]) (M.E.A.), Bedford, MA; Yale University School of Medicine (J.A.C.), New Haven, CT; Epilepsy Therapy Project (J.A.C.), Houston, TX; Rush University Medical Center (A.M.K.), Chicago, IL; and National Center for Veterans Studies (C.J.B.), University of Utah, Salt Lake City.



Because some recent studies suggest increased risk for suicide-related behavior (SRB; ideation, attempts) among those receiving antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), we examined the temporal relationship between new AED exposure and SRB in a cohort of older veterans.


We used national Veterans Health Administration databases to identify veterans aged ≥65 years who received a new AED prescription in 2004-2006. All instances of SRB were identified using ICD-9-CM codes 1 year before and after the AED exposure (index) date. We also identified comorbid conditions and medication associated with SRB in prior research. We used generalized estimating equations with a logit link to examine the association between new AED exposure and SRB during 30-day intervals during the year before and after the index date, controlling for potential confounders.


In this cohort of 90,263 older veterans, the likelihood of SRB the month prior to AED exposure was significantly higher than in other time periods even after adjusting for potential confounders. Although there were 87 SRB events (74 individuals) the year before and 106 SRB events (92 individuals) after, approximately 22% (n = 16) of those also had SRB before the index date. Moreover, the rate of SRB after AED start was gradually reduced over time.


The temporal pattern of AED exposure and SRB suggests that, in clinical practice, the peak in SRB is prior to exposure. While speculative, the rate of gradual reduction in SRB thereafter suggests that symptoms may prompt AED prescription.

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