invincible summers

in the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer. (albert camus)

seroquel for bipolar depression October 25, 2006

five days ago we saw headlines everywhere reading: seroquel approved for bipolar depression. the fda’s action makes seroquel the first drug to treat both the depressive and manic phases of bipolar disorder, says seroquel’s maker, AstraZeneca. immediately i was disgusted, furious, saddened and concerned. i’ve held off writing this entry because i was hoping i could write this free of anger. and, well, it’s not possible.

seroquel has already been approved to treat the manic phases of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. no problem. but for a few years now doctors have been prescribing this drug more frequently with bipolar 2 patients. those that suffer from more depression than mania. i’ve repeatedly voiced my frustrations with this med. a doctor pushed it a few years ago and i trusted her. within a week i was sleeping 14-16 hours a day. after waking it would take an hour or two to actually wake up. i felt as if i was underwater. i gained thirty pounds in a short period of time. and then i got a job which required me waking everyday around 5am, and working 12-15 hour days. i could not function. i went off the med. two years later, the med was pushed by another doc. i was desperate and she felt it was the only option. again, same thing. four months and thirty pounds heavier, i went off the med for the last time. six months later, a new doc brought it up. this time i took charge and said, no. i’m bipolar. i have more depression than mania. my maternal grandmother died from complications of diabetes and my father is diabetic (seroquel has been linked to diabetes). i told her, i want lamictal. she continued to praise seroquel as the wonder drug for bipolar. i brought up the side effects and she said they were few and far between. i replied, really? odd because of the fifty or so bipolar patients i’ve been in contact with they’ve all said the same thing. and how does one function, live life, if you’re sleeping 14 hours a day? she prescribed lamictal.

every once in a while if i’m anxious, if i can’t sleep, i’ll take 100mg of seroquel and i deal with the side effects. on some days it is worth it because it knocks the bad shit down. and quick. seroquel is good for psychosis and short-term treatment of depression. but long-term, i’m afraid not.

the fda decision was based on an eight-week study of 1,045 patients with bipolar depression, the drug company tells WebMD. during the clinical trial program known as BOLDER (BipOLar DEpRession) patients taking seroquel showed an improvement in depressive symptoms starting at week one compared to those taking placebo, and this improvement continued throughout the eight-week study. in addition, patients treated with seroquel showed significant improvement on other measures of efficacy including overall quality of life and satisfaction related to functioning. seroquel was generally well tolerated, the most frequent adverse events seen in the bipolar depression trials were dry mouth, sedation, somnolence, dizziness and constipation during the study, so, seroquel was generally well tolerated. i don’t buy that for a second. how is sedation a good thing? maybe for psychosis or schizophrenia. but depression? absolutely not. it’s unacceptable.

AstraZeneca does state: hyperglycemia, in some cases extreme and associated with ketoacidosis, hyperosmolar coma or death, has been reported in patients treated with atypical antipsychotics. in children and adolescents, it increased the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior. and it’s not approved for the treatment of patients with dementia-related psychosis.

the ad to promote seroquel for bipolar disoder is frightening. we see a screaming woman. face contorted, she looks like she’s being murdered–or doing the murdering. other photos show her clenching her teeth, pulling her hair and screeching into the telephone. the ad is trying to convince millions of healthy women and men they should take a major tranquilizer, an antipsychotic for schizophrenia, because they had a bad day.

in 2005, the new england journal of medicine found seroquel and other atypical antipsychotics except one had no advantage over the older antipsychotics like haldol and thorazine. and they announced that seroquel and a similar atypical antipsychotic were also ineffective in reducing agitation among alzheimer’s patients who constitute 29 percent of seroquel sales. seroquel was found to actually make cognitive functioning worse in the elderly patients with dementia studied.

one young seroquel patient told the chicago sun-times, “it would take me anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half to get out of bed each morning. i couldn’t think, i couldn’t see, and i couldn’t be me,” and that the license of the physician who prescribed her seroquel was revoked. you can read that article here.

so, basically what AstraZeneca has done is what drug companies that put marketing and money before medicine always do: they came up with a new use for seroquel (bipolar disorder) and new formulation (sustained release). and they yelled breakthrough.

dangerous. dangerous. dangerous.

you should read this seattle weekly article on atypical antipsychotics (seroquel belongs to this family), the drugging of the american mind. philip dawdy has been reporting on mental illness for years, he’s bipolar and has twenty years of personal experience.


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