There is concern that increased mortality risk among patients with psychiatric illness may be worsened by psychopharmacological agents.
To assess mortality risk among adult patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder participating in clinical trials conducted by pharmaceutical companies for US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to market and to evaluate if psychopharmacological agents worsen this risk.
The FDA Summary Basis of Approval (SBA) reports of new drug applications and supplemental applications for 28 psychopharmacological agents approved between 1990 and 2011.
The FDA SBA reports detailing exposure data from acute placebo-controlled trials and safety extension studies including 92 542 patients from 47 adult drug approval programs for treatment of schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and SBA reports on combination and maintenance therapy programs for treatments of bipolar disorder.
Data Extraction and Synthesis
We reviewed and synthesized mortality data from SBA reports that combined mortality rates across the clinical trials, including information on patient exposure years (PEY) for active treatments and placebo for individual indications.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Overall mortality rate per 100 000 PEY in relation to the psychiatric diagnosis of the patients participating in psychopharmacology clinical trials. Also, the overall mortality rates using PEY technique among patients assigned to psychopharmacological agents or placebo were evaluated.
Overall, mortality risk was high and significantly associated with psychiatric diagnosis (χ24 = 1760; P < .001). Compared with the general adult population, patients with schizophrenia had the highest mortality risk (3.8-fold increase), followed by patients with depression (3.15-fold increase) and bipolar disorder (3.0-fold increase). The mortality risk was not increased when patients were assigned to psychotropic agents rather than placebo except for heterocyclic antidepressants. Suicide accounted for 109 of all 265 deaths (41.1%).
Conclusions and Relevance
These data suggest that increased mortality rates reported in population studies are detectable among adult patients with psychiatric illnesses participating in psychopharmacological trials. Furthermore, 3- to 4-month exposure to modern psychotropic agents, such as atypical antipsychotic agents, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors does not worsen this risk. Given the inherent limitations of the FDA SBA reports, further research is needed to support firm conclusions.