Widespread Use of Newer Antipsychotics Not Justified, Study Says

We have long been writing that <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">antipsychotic medications have been linked to a number of adverse reactions. Now, another emerging study has found that atypical antipsychotic medications—such as, Seroquel, Abilify, Zyprexa, and Risperdal—do not have the evidence needed that indicates they work and can lead to some serious side effects, including weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease, said Science Daily. The study was conduced at the Stanford University School of Medicine and University of Chicago.

“Because these drugs have safety issues, physicians should prescribe them only when they are sure patients will get substantial benefits,” said Randall Stafford, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, quoted Science Daily. Dr. Stafford is the senior author of the study that was published online in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety. “These are commonly used and very expensive drugs,” he added.
The very popular class of drugs has seen a rise in use since they were first introduced in the United States in 1989, and served to replace first generation antipsychotics that were typically used in the treatment of schizophrenia, said Science Daily.

Antipsychotics are approved for serious psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; however, the drugs can be used at physician discretion, as they see fit, and more and more, are being used for a range of disorders such as “other psychoses, autism, bipolar disorder, delirium, dementia, depression, and personality disorders,” said Science Daily. Some of these other uses have seen recent approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA); many have not.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Seroquel (generic: quetiapine), the largest selling drug in this class, for “schizophrenia and aspects of bipolar disorder and depression,” said Science Daily; however, Seroquel is also being prescribed for anxiety and dementia, and other conditions.

Atypical antipsychotics totaled the largest drug costs in 2008—$10 billion in retail pharmacy prescription drug costs—nearly five percent of all drug spending, said to Science Daily. Science Daily also noted that, based on a 2004 study, about one-quarter of all U.S. nursing home residents had taken the medications. In 2005, the FDA issued a “black box” warning—its strongest—for new-generation antipsychotics, over increased risks of death for dementia patients, said Science Daily.

Atypical antipsychotics have been the focus of thousands of lawsuits; the drug class is also the single, largest spotlight for lawsuits filed under the federal False Claims Act, said Science Daily. Every key drug company selling atypical antipsychotics have either settled lawsuits in the hundreds of millions of dollars or are the subject of probes concerning the massaging of results or use of “questionable” marketing, noted Science Daily.

Among the many studies on which we have written, the powerful medications have been linked to an increased risk of dangerous blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and a doubling in the risk for fatal pneumonia in elderly patients, soon after commencement of treatment. Antipsychotics, are often given as chemical restraints and sometimes given for seemingly pointless reasons. These medications have been linked to falls and other accidents in the elderly.

Previously, we wrote that some antipsychotic medications, including Zyprexa and Seroquel, have been linked to weight gain, hyperglycemia, and hyperlipidemia. Some metabolic side effects have been associated with increased risks for cardiac-related diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. One significant issue with this link is that the severely mentally ill—the demographic most prescribed antipsychotics—have a higher risk of cardiovascular death than the general population.

Not too long ago, we wrote that, yet another study linked significant weight gains—10-to-20 pounds—in children to some antipsychotic medications during their first three months on medications such as Zyprexa, Seroquel, Risperdal, and Abilify, with this study pointing to deeper increases than previously seen. Cholesterol, triglyceride, and other metabolic parameters were also elevated.

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