Seroquel® and Pancreatitis

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One of the serious side effects noted during the clinical testing of Seroquel was the development of pancreatitis in some patients. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, a large gland located behind the stomach and close to the upper section of the small intestine. The pancreas secretes the digestive enzymes that help the body digest fats, proteins, and carbohydrates found in food. The pancreas also releases the hormone insulin into the bloodstream. About 80,000 cases of pancreatitis occur in the United States annually, occurring more often in men than in women.

The hallmark sign of pancreatitis is severe upper abdominal pain. Other common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, elevated heart rate, elevated respiratory rate, and fluid around the lungs. If the case of pancreatitis is severe, evidence of internal bleeding may manifest as discolored, reddish or purple skin around the navel or down the flanks. Complications from pancreatitis can include dehydration, shock, high blood glucose, hypocalcemia (low blood calcium), and kidney failure. Respiratory complications can occur and are considered major contributors to the mortality rate of pancreatitis. Portions of the lungs may collapse as a result of the shallow breathing of the patient attempting to minimize the abdominal pain.

The treatment of the disorder depends on the severity of the pancreatitis itself. All treatments include the provision of pain relief (morphine is normally the medication of choice), replacement of electrolytes and fluids, restriction of dietary fat, and monitoring for any complications. If the patient developes an infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. Surgery may be required to find the source of the internal bleeding and/or remove any pancreatic tissue that is severely damaged. If kidney failure occurs, the patient will need dialysis to help remove wastes from the blood.

A connection between Seroquel usage and a higher risk of developing these types of disorders was revealed in 2003, resulting in a FDA request to the manufacturer that they incorporate the new information about the elevated risks on the warning label of the drug. Seroquel was also identified as one of six anti-psychotic drugs linked to an elevated risk of obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Independent assessments discovered that patients on Seroquel developed diabetes 3 times more often than patients taking the older anti-psychotic medications. A letter detailing the data was released to healthcare professionals warning of the heightened risks and asking them to monitor any of their patients taking Seroquel carefully for any symptoms indicating that they are developing diabetes. The FDA concluded that the benefits of using Seroquel outweighed the risks of taking the drug and determined that a recall was unnecessary. Physicians are advised to carefully evaluate the risks and benefits of prescribing the medication before issuing it to their patients.

More Seroquel Information

Seroquel, generically known as Quetiapine, is a prescription medication manufactured and marketed by leading pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. Belonging to the “atypical anti-psychotics” category, Seroquel gained approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in August of 1997 and was released to the public later that year. Seroquel is approved for use in the treatment of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and is known to be prescribed “off-label” to assist in the treatment of restless leg syndrome, autism, sleep disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, and alcoholism.

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