January 1, 2011

An Institute for Safe Medication Practices study published recently in the journal PLoS One identified a group of drugs the researchers dubbed “primary suspects.” The primary suspects are dangerous prescription drugs – dangerous to the patient and to others — because they are linked, according to the study, to violent or aggressive behaviors including homicide and physical assault.

The researchers analyzed data from the Food and Drug Administration’s Adverse Event Reporting System, using criteria that included the number of cases of violence reported for each drug. They found that 31 drugs were disproportionately associated with violent or aggressive behavior toward others.

To measure the extent of the danger, the team determined how many cases of violence or aggression were associated with each drug and compared that number to the number of violence or aggression cases for all other drugs. The ratio was translated into a rating system that, for our sake, shows the likelihood that the rated drug will be associated with an incident of violence or aggression toward another.

The primary suspect drugs were among the group with the highest ratings. The suspects include antidepressants, antidepressants that affect serotonin (SSRI), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs, sedatives and a quit-smoking drug.

What researchers and commentators want to emphasize is that the study doesn’t say these drugs cause violent behavior. Many are used to control aggressive behavior in patients, and the drug may or may not affect the underlying condition. The best example is the link between aggressive or violent behavior and people who are trying to quit smoking without medication. As one report noted, no one is pleasant under those circumstances.

Still, these drugs, particularly the anti-smoking drug, stood out from the crowd because of their disproportionate likelihood to be linked to violence or aggression. We’ll discuss the specific drugs and their ratings in our next post.

Source: Time, “Top 10 legal drugs linked to violence,” 01/07/11


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