What is Seroquel®?

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Seroquel, known generically as Quetiapine, is a prescription medication classified as an atypical antipsychotic. It is commonly used in the treatment of schizophrenia and in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Seroquel is manufactured and marketed by AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, and received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration in 1997. Seroquel also has many “off-label” uses, including treatment for disorders such as restless leg syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, Tourette syndrome, alcoholism, and as a sedative.

The most common side effect associated with Seroquel is sedation/somnolence, most pronounced in the first week of treatment and gradually tapering off with usage. This sedation ability is the main reason that Seroquel is prescribed “off-label” with such frequency, especially for patients with sleep disorders, even though the medication has not received approval from the FDA for this usage. The minor side effects observed in patients taking Seroquel include dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, headache, anxiety, and constipation. The more serious side effects related to the use of Seroquel include confusion, uncontrollable muscle movements, sudden numbness or weakness, suicidal thoughts, and problems with speech, vision, or balance. Substantial weight gain has been noted in some patients, leading researchers to suggest that Seroquel can expand a patient’s appetite causing the patient to eat larger regular meals.

Seroquel has also been linked to a higher risk of blood sugar disorders, such as type 2 diabetes, diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia is a condition in which there is an excessive amount of glucose in the plasma of the blood. Chronic hyperglycemia can lead to organ damage and acute hyperglycemia can be a precursor to diabetic ketoacidosis. Hyperglycemia is responsible for over 6 million hospital visits annually.

Diabetes is classified as a metabolic disorder and is usually characterized by hyperglycemia along with other symptoms. Type 2 diabetes, often called adult-onset diabetes, is caused by a combination of insulin resistance and defective insulin secretion. It is considered a chronic condition, incurable, but treatable with a combination of dietary planning, medication, and insulin supplementation. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a state of extreme metabolic dysregulation; a condition considered a medical emergency as coma and death can follow if not treated quickly and correctly. Diabetic ketoacidosis is characterized by nausea, an altered state of consciousness, deep rapid breathing, and a smell of acetone on the breath. Usually caused by an untreated case of diabetes, diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition with a high mortality rate

The increased risk of blood sugar disorders while using Seroquel was discovered in 2003, prompting the FDA to request that the manufacturer add the new information to the warning label of the drug. In 2004, the drug was named as one of six anti-psychotic medications that can promote diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity. Physicians were urged to carefully monitor patients taking Seroquel to ensure that the patient was not developing diabetes. Clinical studies indicated that patients taking the medication were more than 3 times more likely to develop diabetes than patients taking older anti-psychotic medications. Warning signs to watch for include weakness, excessive hunger, and increased urination.

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