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Most effective antipsychotic drug has serious health consequences

Patients who take clozapine, the most effective antipsychotic drug, have significantly higher rates of metabolic syndrome, according to a first-of-a-kind study by University of Rochester Medical Center researchers.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increase the risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The conditions include high blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, abnormal levels of cholesterol and triglycerides and insulin resistance. Any one of the conditions increases the risk of serious disease. In combination, the risk grows greater.

More than half the clozapine patients studied had metabolic syndrome while only about 20 percent of those in a comparison group did, researchers report in the July issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Patients with metabolic syndrome in this study would be expected to have a two-to-threefold increase in cardiovascular disease mortality, the Medical Center Department of Psychiatry researchers state.

"Clozapine is the last hope for many people," said J. Steven Lamberti, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and lead author of the journal article. "But there are long-term health implications. This study suggests that patients who need the most effective medication are between a rock and a hard place."

The increased physical health risks must be balanced with the potential benefits of clozapine, the researchers conclude. In addition to its superior efficacy for patients resistant to conventional antipsychotic drugs, clozapine also is the only medication currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of suicidal behavior.

Physicians should monitor closely people who receive clozapine with regular tests for glucose and blood lipid levels, blood pressure and body weight, Lamberti said.

"We need to raise the awareness of physicians about this issue so they monitor their patients and intervene promptly when required t
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Contact: Michael Wentzel
Michael_Wentzel@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-1309
University of Rochester Medical Center
1-Jul-2006


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