Seroquel Used to Treat PTSD in Thousands of Soldiers

<"">Seroquel, the same drug at the center of thousands of recently settled personal injury claims, is now one of the top medications on which the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) spends its money.

Recently, AstraZeneca settled thousands of claims for nearly $200 million, according to The Wall Street Journal, previously. The settlements cover claims that Seroquel, approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar depression, caused diabetes and other injuries. Now, according to the Associated Press, thousands of soldiers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been treated with the same drug.

Soldiers have been receiving Seroquel for the past nine years, which has helped to not only boost the drug’s sales at the VA, but nationwide, as well, making it the number five best selling drug in the United States, wrote the AP. Symptoms of PTSD include, said the AP, sleeplessness, nightmares, and restlessness.

Meanwhile, a number of soldiers and veterans have reportedly died while taking Seroquel, which has survivor families seeking a Congressional investigation over concerns that the government might be hiding information about the medication’s risks, reported the AP. The number of soldiers who have died while taking Seroquel is unknown as is whether or not Seroquel was a contributing factor in any of the deaths, said the AP; however, one deceased Marine’s father has confirmed about six deaths in soldiers taking Seroquel. He believes his son’s is not an isolated case and feels there are many more such stories linking PTSD and Seroquel use to death.

Meanwhile, spending for the potent antipsychotic by the US military medical systems has increased an astounding seven-fold since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, said the AP, pointing to documents it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. According to the AP, the increase in the medication’s usage was significantly more than the increase in personnel in that system during that time.

Seroquel—Introduced in 1997—has long been linked to a risk of weight gain, muscle spasms, and diabetes. In 2003 and 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) directed AstraZeneca and manufacturers of similar antipsychotic drugs to increase their warning labels to include these risks. Meanwhile, heart failure was a recently suggested risk linked to Seroquel, according to researchers at Vanderbilt University, said the AP.

Approved to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression, Seroquel has not been approved by the FDA for the treatment of insomnia, wrote the AP. But, as with any other FDA-approved medication, physicians are free to prescribe drugs off-label as they see fit, in this case, Seroquel for insomnia.

The FDA has only approved two medications for the treatment of PTSD: Paxil and Zoloft; however, they are not always effective, reported the AP. Physicians interviewed by the AP said they began prescribing Seroquel because it was the only drug that offered relief from the nightmares and anxiety associated with PTSD.

“By accident, some people were giving them Seroquel for anxiety or depression, and the veterans said, ‘This is the first time I have slept six or seven hours straight all night. Please give me more of that.’ And the word spread,” said Dr. Henry Nasrallah of the University of Cincinnati, quoted the AP. Dr. Nasrallah has treated patients suffering from PTSD for over 25 years.

Of note, today, AstraZeneca is facing roughly 26,000 Seroquel lawsuits.

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