By Debbie Gregory.
Congressman David Jolly (FL-13) and Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada’s First Congressional District have co-sponsored legislation mandating the Department of Veterans Affairs to review veteran suicide deaths during the past five years and study any correlation between those deaths and psychiatric drug prescriptions.
The bipartisan legislation, called the Veteran Suicide Prevention Act (H.R. 4640), would study the medications that veterans were taking at the time of their death by suicide.
The FDA’s MedWatch adverse drug event reporting system reveals that between 2004 and 2012, the federal agency received more than 14,000 reports on psychiatric drugs causing violent side effects. There are 22 international drug regulatory warnings on psychiatric drugs, citing mania, hostility, violence, abnormal behavior and suicidal behavior.
The legislation would require the VA to record the total number of veterans who have died by suicide during the past five years, compile a comprehensive list of the medications prescribed to and found in the systems of such veterans at the time of their deaths, and report which Veterans Health Administration facilities have disproportionately high rates of psychiatric drug prescription and suicide among veterans treated at those facilities. The VA would then compile the results of the report and come up with a plan of action for improving the safety and well-being of veterans.
“It is critical that we understand whether there is any impact of certain psychiatric drugs prescribed for issues like P.T.S.D., depression or traumatic brain injuries, on the decision of a veteran to take their own life,” Jolly said. “With veterans dying by suicide at a heartbreaking rate, we need to take a hard look at all possible factors in order to help prevent these tragedies.”
“Data suggest that every 65 minutes a veteran takes his or her own life,” Rep. Titus said. “This is unacceptable. One way to address the problem is to determine if any associations exist between suicide and medical treatments our veterans may be receiving for service-related conditions. Accordingly, this bill is a prudent first step in ending this crisis and letting our troops know that when they come home they are not alone.”