Seroquel Fights its Corner
The embattled drug-maker AstraZeneca has just won dismissal of two lawsuits which claimed the drug Seroquel caused diabetes and other health problems. It isn't yet clear what effect the ruling may have on the 9,000 outstanding lawsuits from 15,000 plaintiffs in the U.S.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has previously asked AstraZeneca to highlight the fact that Seroquel can lead to significant weight gain in some people. Excessive weight is associated with an increased risk of diabetes. The FDA have also asked AstraZeneca to improve on its existing warning that a potential side effect of Seroquel is diabetes.
Recent reports by Margaret Cronin Fisk and Jef Freeley for Bloomberg.com., have tracked the progress of the legal hearings. They report a spokesman for AstraZeneca saying Seroquel's label, "always provided accurate and appropriate information and warnings". The spokesman, Tony Jewell, also stated, "the company intends to litigate these cases on the individual merits and defend them vigorously".
Seroquel is frequently referred to as a new-generation form of antipsychotic medication. It was first approved by the FDA in 1997 for the treatment of schizophrenia, but has since been extended to include bipolar disorder.
The active ingredient of Seroquel is quetiapine. Quetiapine blocks receptors in the brain that dopamine acts on. This prevents excessive neural activity and has the effect of relieving symptoms. In schizophrenia, quetiapine seems to be effective in the treatment of both positive and negative symptoms. Older medications tend to be less effective in treating negative symptoms (social withdrawal, lack of emotion) but better with positive symptoms (hallucinations, thought disorder).
There are a number of cautions and side effects associated with Seroquel. The FDA have warned against its use in psychotic conditions associated with dementia as its use may lead to pneumonia, heart failure, or sudden death. Seroquel can cause an increase in blood-sugar levels, can impair reaction times and can lead to a number of side effects including:
- Fainting, especially early on in treatment.
- Weakness and numbness, especially down one side.
- Muscular jerks and difficulties in controlling actions.
- Confusion, sweating, increased heart rate.
- Headaches, problems with vision, speech and balance.
As with many medications, the possible benefits have to be weighed against the disadvantages. If you have been advised to try Seroquel, or if you are considering asking for it to be prescribed, you must tell your doctor about any existing health conditions or any family history of health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.