Seroquel Side Effects Lawyer
Personal Injury Lawyers - Representing People Nationwide
There seems to have been little indication that when AstraZeneca first put the second-generation antipsychotic Seroquel on the market in 1997 that it would do as well as it has done for the company. Initial estimates thought the drug might bring in around $800 million. However, Seroquel has become the number one selling antipsychotic in the U.S., and the eighth best-selling drug in the world. (Eli Lilly & Co.'s antipsychotic Zyprexa is currently the world's best selling drug.) AstraZeneca made $4 billion in sales of Seroquel last year. AstraZeneca would like the world to believe this is due to the drug's effectiveness at treating mental illness. But the reality may be that Seroquel has been used in ways it was never meant to be when it was first approved by the FDA.
While Seroquel has been effective in treating mental illness, it has also been tied to a number of side effects including:
- Increased risk of diabetes
- High cholesterol
- Increased risk of fatalities among elderly dementia patients
One study showed patients taking Seroquel were more than three times as likely to develop diabetes as those taking older, first-generation antipsychotics. Dementia patients prescribed second-generation antipsychotics have a fatality rate 160 to 170% higher than patients prescribed a placebo. The FDA has required all second-generation antipsychotics to add a black box warning describing this. But this was not until 2004, seven years after it was approved.
Alarming Off-Label Use
Off-label use, or prescribing drugs for non-FDA approved uses, has been rising. While doctors may prescribe drugs for anything they see fit, it is illegal for drug companies to promote these off-label uses. However, company representatives will provide off-label information if they are asked by a doctor and doctors may discuss this with other doctors at events for medical education. These events are often sponsored by drug makers.
Such is the case with Seroquel. This drug has been used for uses with:
- ADD and ADHD
- Parkinson's Disease
- Tourette's Syndrome
One study shows that over half of Seroquel prescriptions in the U.S. are administered for off-label uses. Furthermore, many of these are aimed at children. Seroquel has been approved by the FDA only for use in adults with schizophrenic tendencies. However, the use of this drug on children is not only increasing, but is big business.
For example, a child psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School named Joseph Biederman, is involved in a study which is currently looking for people to test Seroquel in children from four to six-years-old with bipolar disorder. Biederman earned $1.6 million in consulting fees from drug makers. He has also been one of the main proponents of giving children a diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder, and pushing the used of antipsychotics to treat them. Biederman is not alone in this; several other influential child psychiatrists, who receive funding from drug makers of atypical antipsychotics, are telling parents their children need these drugs.
Attorneys General in three states — Pennsylvania, Montana, and Arkansas — have sued AstraZeneca over Seroquel. The suits allege that manufacturers hid or downplayed the drug's risk, while peddling its off-label uses. Several other states are conducting inquiries. In all, there are nearly 9,000 personal injury lawsuits from patients who say they developed diabetes or other problems because of Seroquel.
AstraZeneca counters with the argument that finding a correlation between antipsychotics like Seroquel and diabetes is complicated due to the increase in those with diabetes in the general population. The fact that some of these are schizophrenics is simply due to their being part of the population.
AstraZeneca, like all big drug companies, is able to control the way their drugs are marketed. According to Robert Rosenheck, professor of psychiatry at Yale and co-investigator of the federally funded study called Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE), little independent research is performed in the clinical trials of drugs. This is due in part to drug company control of journal publications, speakers' bureaus, and patient advocacy groups, which hail these drugs as breakthroughs. This affects the way doctors look at the drugs, due to their funding, as well as the victims of side effects from FDA-approved usage and off-label usage. But, in the end, a company like AstraZeneca brings in $4 billion, and the patient winds up with diabetes.
If you or a loved one has been sickened by taking Seroquel, please contact an experienced pharmaceutical injury attorney in your area.