Study finds no adverse effect of antipsychotics on blood sugar, cholesterol levels

PORTLAND, Ore. Despite a warning from the Food and Drug Administration, blood sugar and cholesterol monitoring of patients using newer antipsychotic medications remains low, a new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry has found.

With funding from Pfizer, researchers in Oregon State University, Emory University and other research institutions in Colorado and Missouri analyzed data from 109,000 Medicaid patients. They found that doctors had largely ignored the FDA warning, released in 2003, to screen patients using the “second generation” antipsychotic medications, which includes a broad range of drugs such as Pfizer’s Geodon (ziprasidone) and AstraZeneca’s Seroquel (quetiapine fumarate), for high blood sugar and cholesterol, which the drugs are known to increase, along with weight gain and the risk of diabetes.

“The existing baseline screening and ongoing monitoring of glucose and lipid levels in these patients was already pretty low, and the FDA warning really had no impact in changing that,” Oregon State University College of Pharmacy professor Daniel Hartung said in a statement. “The side effects that can be caused by these new types of antipsychotic medications, some of which were first approved in the 1990s, are not trivial. Increases in blood sugar, cholesterol and body weight can lead to diabetes in some cases, and this patient group already has a problem with diabetes that’s almost twice that of the general population.”

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