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2 Schizophrenia Drugs Square Off

Zyprexa Found More Effective, but Expert Has Concerns
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In fact, Garver tells WebMD that in Japan, Zyprexa is packaged with special warnings because of these risks. It, along with some other schizophrenia drugs, is also known to cause weight gain, which was seen in 13% of the Zyprexa group, compared with only 2% of those taking Geodon. Both drugs were prescribed to these patients in their usual doses.

"Frankly, although this study gives an edge to Zyprexa, I think what most psychiatrists are concerned about is the ultimate effect of these drugs," says Garver, who has served as a consultant for both Lilly and Pfizer, which manufactures Geodon. "And Geodon doesn't cause these long-term side effects."

In some patients, however, Geodon can slow electrical conduction through the heart, causing an irregular heartbeat and decreasing pumping action -- an effect not known to be caused by Zyprexa. In this study, Geodon patients were also three times more likely to have insomnia and twice as likely to experience vomiting.

Both drugs are called "atypical antipsychotic" medications, the newest class of schizophrenia drugs, which are believed to cause less restlessness and fewer muscle spasms and other movement disorders commonly associated with older schizophrenia drugs. Other drugs in this new class include Clozaril, Risperdal, and Seroquel, which were not evaluated in this study.

Schizophrenia drugs work by blocking the action of serotonin and dopamine, two brain chemicals that are altered in those with schizophrenia. Affecting more than 2 million Americans in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, the disease is characterized by hearing voices and believing that other people or forces are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or trying to harm them. Although schizophrenia drugs can control these symptoms, it's estimated that no more than one in five patients ever completely recovers from schizophrenia.

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