Like Zyprexa, Clozapine is a drug for treating schizophrenia. They are both known as “atypical antipsychotic” drugs, meaning that they are given to people whose condition has resisted treatment by previous drugs. They have appeared on the market more recently than the drugs traditionally used to treat schizophrenia.
Clozapine is also sold as Clozaril in the U.S., and is sold in other countries under various other names. It was the first “atypical” antipsychotic to be developed and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1989.
What is schizophrenia?
It’s a mental illness involving impaired perception of reality. Common symptoms are:
- Auditory hallucinations
- Paranoid delusions
- Disorganized speech and thinking
Social and occupational dysfunction
There is no laboratory test for Schizophrenia and diagnosis is based on behavior observed by the doctor and what the patient tells the doctor. Causes are not fully understood. Some contributory factors have been identified, such as genetics, childhood experience, and various psychological and social conditions. It is often associated with depression, substance abuse, and suicide.
Clozaril side effects
After a few years, some side effects became evident. In cooperation with the FDA, Novartis, the company that offers this drug as Clozaril, issued a warning to physicians which listed five serious side effects:
- Agranulocytosis – a blood condition involving reduced numbers of white blood cells, which are the cells that protect against infection. This leaves the patient vulnerable to any small infection rapidly progressing, which could be fatal.
- The warning advises doctors to use Clozaril only for patients who resist treatment by other drugs, or who are suicidal. Baseline and subsequently regular white blood cell counts must be performed.
- Seizures – The dosage is reported to be “an important predictor” of seizures, with seizures being more likely as dosage increases. Physicians should use caution if a patient has any history of seizures or predisposing factors for them.
- Myocarditis – inflammation in the heart muscle which can be fatal. Clozarpine is to be immediately discontinued if any signs of myocarditis appear.
- Increased mortality in older patients whose psychosis is dementia-related – meaning that it’s related to increasing and age-related loss of memory, language, attention, and problem-solving. Seventeen studies were cited in which the death rate was significantly higher for those on Clozaril than for those on a placebo. Deaths were from either infection or heart failure – see items number 1 and 3 above.
Risk of Diabetes
Although diabetes was not mentioned in that FDA warning, Clozapine has been linked to diabetes, as have all the “atypical” antipsychotics. The FDA requires manufacturers of these to include warnings about the risk of high blood sugar and diabetes. Studies have shown that it decreases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, so that blood sugar levels rise. One of the side effects of Clozapine is weight gain. Increased weight and impaired glucose metabolism increase the risk of heart disease.
The Third Most Dangerous Drug
In 2007, an eight-year study (1998 – 2005) was reported in the American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine. The FDA’s MedWatch data had been analyzed for adverse drug events, meaning drug-triggered deaths, or events resulting in disability or serious medical intervention. There were 467,809 of these events that had been reported to the FDA.
Clozapine was found to have triggered 3,277 deaths, making it the third most dangerous drug being used in the U.S. It was also connected with over 4,300 adverse drug events that led to disability or required serious medical intervention.
Anybody taking Clozapine must have frequent and regular blood tests. If you have a loved one who has been taking Clozapine (or Clozaril), and there have been serious side effects from it, you and/or your loved one may be entitled to compensation. You can arrange for a free consultation with one of our affiliated pharmaceutical injury lawyers in your area. Please use the link below for your state.