Research from Duke University Medical Center suggests there might be a link between at least one drug used to treat schizophrenia and the onset of diabetes, a disease widely recognized as one of the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S.
The drug, olanzapine (trade name Zyprexa), belongs to a relatively new family of medications called atypical antipsychotics, which are used to treat schizophrenia, paranoia and manic-depressive disorders. Other drugs in this class include clozapine, risperidone, quetiapine and ziprasidone.
The researchers found metabolic abnormalities ranging from mild blood sugar problems to diabetic ketoacidosis and coma in patients who had been prescribed olanzapine, most of whom were otherwise not known to be diabetic. Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a serious condition in which a person experiences an extreme rise in blood glucose level coupled with a severe lack of insulin, which results in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and rapid breathing. Untreated, DKA can lead to coma and even death.
"While our report does not prove a causal relationship between the drug and diabetes, doctors should be aware of such potentially adverse effects," said P. Murali Doraiswamy, M.D., a psychiatrist at Duke and co-author of the study. "Weve found cases where patients had some very serious problems associated with olanzapine, and at least 23 of them died."
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