By LEE HARTZ, Associated Press BOSTON — A new medication could reduce suicides among Americans with severe bipolar disorder by about half, according to a study published Monday in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
The study, by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, compared a drug that’s been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating bipolar disorder and a placebo.
It found that people taking the drug had about half the risk of committing suicide.
A person who has bipolar disorder is defined as having two or more of the symptoms of bipolar disorder, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A drug called venlafaxine, or Celexa, is used to treat bipolar disorder.
It’s a partial treatment for bipolar disorder but not the same as an antidepressant.
A study published in April found that venlacoxine, also known as Lexapro, reduced suicidal ideation, thoughts of suicide and suicidal behavior by about 25% in patients with severe manic-depressive symptoms.
The researchers used data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a long-term survey that includes people with serious mental illness and those who are bipolar.
In the current study, the researchers found that about 12% of people taking venlapine and 11% of those taking a placebo had suicidal ideations and behaviors in the past year.
About 13% of the participants had suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide.
In both groups, the drugs reduced suicidal behaviors by about 13% and suicidal ideators by about 7% in the first year.
The drug also reduced depression and suicidal thoughts.
It was effective in reducing suicidal thoughts, according a statement from the researchers.
A similar study of the drug did not find any differences between the two groups.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has not approved any antidepressant drugs for people with severe mental illness, including people with bipolar illness.
The VA has long recommended that people with major depression be prescribed a drug to treat their symptoms of depression and other symptoms, such as thoughts of death.
The agency also has approved a new medication to treat severe depression, but has not given permission for it to be used in people with a diagnosis of bipolar illness because of concerns about side effects.
For more health news, visit the AP’s health and science section.
____Written by Emily Bowerman, AP writer in New York, New York.
Follow AP health and medical science writer Karen Lippman on Twitter: @APKarenLippman.
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