Was Anyone Listening When Pharmaceutical Co. Warned its Powerful PTSD Drug Klonopin Could Increase Suicide Risk?

Tiffany and Jason Pemberton settled in Daytona Beach, Fla., after he had deployed three times with the 82nd Airborne and earned three Purple Heart Medals and a Bronze Star Medal for Valor. A parachute accident ended his Army career, and he was being treated for PTSD by doctors at the VA where family members say he was prescribed a powerful benzodiazepine called Klonopin. In February, Jason shot and killed Tiffany and then himself.

THE LAST BATTLE: Jason Pemberton, Medically Discharged From Army for Wounds and PTSD, Killed Himself and His Wife

by Greg Barnes
Fayettville Observer, Sept. 24, 2012

LILLINGTON – Angie Selvia knew her daughter’s husband had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Klonopin is commonly prescribed by military and VA doctors to treat PTSD. In 2009, Roche Laboratories issued a warning linking the drug to increased risk of suicide. Did military or VA doctors warn their patients or families?

She knew, too, that former Fort Bragg Staff Sgt. Jason Pemberton’s psychological problems were getting worse after his medical discharge from the Army in 2009. He had hurt his back in a parachute accident.

Pemberton, a sniper before his discharge, had been going regularly to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where Selvia said he received the anti-anxiety drug Klonopin and other prescription medications.

She said he had become addicted to the drugs.

What she did not know was where her son-in-law’s demons would take him.

In early February, at his apartment in Daytona Beach, Fla., Pemberton shot and killed Selvia’s daughter, 25-year-old Tiffany Pemberton, and then turned the gun on himself.

Anyone considering prescribing Klonopin or any other AED must balance the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior with the risk of untreated illness. Epilepsy and many other illnesses for which AEDs are prescribed are themselves associated with morbidity and mortality and an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior. Should suicidal thoughts and behavior emerge during treatment, the prescriber needs to consider whether the emergence of these symptoms in any given patient may be related to the illness being treated.

Patients, their caregivers, and families should be informed that AEDs increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior and should be advised of the need to be alert for the emergence or worsening of the signs and symptoms of depression, any unusual changes in mood or behavior, or the emergence of suicidal thoughts, behavior, or thoughts about self-harm. Behaviors of concern should be reported immediately to healthcare providers.

— Roche Laboratories’ website warning of suicide risk for those prescribed Klonopin

Three days earlier, Selvia said, her daughter called to say doctors at the VA hospital in Daytona Beach had just told her husband there was nothing more they could do for him, other than to write another prescription.

“She was very upset because she didn’t think he was getting the proper care,” Selvia said.

In 2010, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs issued directives on the treatment of PTSD. The guidelines cautioned against the use of benzodiazepines, which include Klonopin, saying they can do more harm than good.

In 2009, Roche Laboratories Inc., the manufacturer of Klonopin, warned that the drug can increase the risk of suicide.

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2 Responses

  1. The widespread prescribing of benzodiazepines for profit is so far beyond unjust when you consider they were first introduced in 1960 and from that time on there has been ample evidence of very serious effects for as many as 1/3 of patients. When the pharmaceutical industry discovered benzos might be problematic, both in the 1960’s and again in the 1980’s, they quickly forgot to do any more studies. We just don’t know, they said. I have permanent cognitive impairment and insomnia I did not have before the mental health industrial complex shoved 8 years worth of Klonopin and dozens of other drugs down my throat. I took them as prescribed for 8 years and it has been that long since I quit taking any. There is no justice. Truth has fallen in the street.

  2. The injured warriors I work with no longer take their prescriptions of psychiatric drugs and they all get better. Beware of these labels, drugs, and conventional treatments for a ‘disorder’. You may become stuck for life believing you have to have them to recover. However, you only experience enormous side effects and end up in waiting rooms of the VA for more of the same. See our approach to health, recovery and restoration before taking these risky meds. http://jerryvestinjuredwarrior.com

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