Schizophrenia Drugs Linked to Diabetes
Evidence Mounts That Newer Schizophrenia Medications Boost Blood Sugar
So What Now?
"If you realize this risk is hanging over your head, you need to try every way you can to prevent the development of diabetes. That means addressing things like weight gain or being overweight, and exercising, not smoking, and watching your diet," Sernyak says. "And patients receiving these drugs should really be treated as being at relatively high risk of developing diabetes."
His study, published in the May issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, follows previous research -- including some of his own -- linking Clozaril with a higher risk of diabetes.
In a review of 38,000 schizophrenics, Sernyak reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry last year that those taking Clozaril were 25% more likely to develop diabetes than those receiving other drugs. And a Swedish study indicated that patients taking Clozaril were more than twice as likely to develop diabetes than those taking other schizophrenia medications.
Other Schizophrenia Medications
Meanwhile, other studies have linked another of these newer schizophrenia medications -- Zyprexa -- with increased risk of diabetes, including a study in Pharmacotherapy last July. That study showed that the problem arose within six months of starting the drug. Some of these newer drugs -- and most notably, Zyprexa -- are known to cause moderate weight gain, which also boosts the risk of diabetes.
These newer schizophrenia medications -- which are sometimes used to treat bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses -- are believed to prevent the muscle and nerve side effects commonly associated with the older drugs by better maintaining the balance of two brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine. Older schizophrenia medications used since the 1950s affect only dopamine.
These medications have greatly improved the lives of many people living with this potentially disabling mental condition. Researchers still need to figure out the exact relationship between diabetes and these newer schizophrenia medications. Until then, doctors and people living with schizophrenia need to keep an eye on blood sugar, weight, and other physical signs that may predict a potential problem.