Study debunks Tamiflu suicide risk

Mar 16, 2018

New research from the University of Illinois at Chicago suggests that common flu treatment, Tamiflu, does not cause an increased risk of suicide in pediatric patients.

The FDA approved the drug, co-developed by Roche and Gilead, in 1999, but soon began hearing reports of abnormal behavior in adolescents who used the medication. In 2006, the Agency required that all packaging of the drug include a warning label about potential neuropsychiatric side effects, such as hallucinations, delirium, self-harm and even suicide.

Because of how difficult it is to study the link between a drug and suicide in children, researchers the UIC College of Medicine used a novel method called a case-crossover design. The researchers identified 21,047 children between the ages of 1 and 18 who attempted suicide during five recent flu seasons (2009-2013) from a national administrative claims database. Of this group, 251 of those children were exposed to Tamiflu.

"For each of the 251 patients, we assigned the 10-day period immediately before the suicide attempt as the case period and we identified up to four earlier control periods of the same length, in the same flu season," said Dr. James Antoon, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics in the UIC College of Medicine. "This helped us to account for within-person confounders, like depression, mental health, trauma and abuse, and other factors, like race or ethnicity."

The researchers did not find any association between exposure to Tamiflu and suicide in pediatric patients.

Read about the study