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Zyprexa (olanzapine) is an "atypical antipsychotic drug" used to treat schizophrenia (characterized by illogical patterns of thinking, withdrawal from reality, delusions, and hallucinations), bipolar disorder (characterized by one or more major depressive episodes accompanied by at least one manic episode), and symptoms of dementia (characterized by a deterioration of intellectual faculties).
Approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996, the drug, which is manufactured by Eli Lilly, quickly became very popular because it did not have the same "Parkinson's-like" side effects that older drugs used to teat schizophrenia had. But despite its popularity, other serious side effects of Zyprexa have come to light.
In 2001, the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reported that the FDA was aware of nineteen cases of diabetes connected with the use of Zyprexa. One patient had died from pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, related to diabetes. Further reports of serious side effects associated with Zyprexa were then followed by the medical journal Pharmacotherapy, Japanese and British governmental health agencies, and the Wall Street Journal. The FDA finally began issuing a series of warning letters and recommending label changes beginning in September, 2003.
Serious side effects now deemed to be associated with the use of Zyprexa include:
Diabetes – Zyprexa may increase the blood sugar level, causing or worsening diabetes in some users. The risk for diabetes in those who use Zyprexa is significantly higher if there is a family history of it.
Diabetic coma – a loss of consciousness resulting from an extremely low or high level of blood sugar. If left untreated, the condition can become life threatening.
Hyperglycemia – a 2003 study at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in New Haven, Connecticut found that 25 percent of patients taking drugs for schizophrenia and related symptoms, including Zyprexa, had higher blood sugar levels and 5 percent had extremely high blood sugar levels. Symptoms of hyperglycemia include excess urination, dehydration and thirst, nausea and vomiting.
Ketoacidosis – hyperglycemia caused by Zyprexa can lead to ketoacidosis, a condition in which if the body has too little insulin, it releases fat that gets converted to ketones. These ketones can cause unusually high acidic levels in the body and dehydration. In addition to the symptoms of hyperglycemia, the patient may suffer abdominal pain. It can be a life threatening when left untreated.
Pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas resulting from leakage of enzymes from the tube that connects the intestines to the pancreas, which is responsible for making glucose and insulin. Symptoms include pain in the upper or lower back, nausea and vomiting, yellowing skin, fever, bloated or swollen belly, and rapid heartbeat.
Stroke - one of Eli Lilly's own studies shows that Zyprexa doubles the risk of stroke in elderly dementia patients.
There is evidence that Eli Lilly has been playing down the health risks of its top-selling medication since before its introduction. If you or a loved one has suffered or is suffering from any side effects associated with Zyprexa, we urge you to consult with an experienced pharmaceutical injury attorney. You may be entitled to compensation for the damages caused.