Thursday, January 13, 2011

Evidence for Atypical Antipsychotic Drugs Called into Question

Despite massive advertising and booming prescriptions, use and sales, the new atypical antipsychotic medications such as Seroquel and Abilify – used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and other illnesses – lack sufficient evidence to support their widespread and generalized usage. This according to a new study out of the Stanford University School of Medicine and University of Chicago.

In the past decade, atypical antipsychotics have rocketed past many commonly prescribed, but older antidepressant and other psychiatric medications. Although initially touted as having few side effects, followup studies have found that atypical antipsychotics have serious side effects, including significant weight gain that can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

“Because these drugs have safety issues, physicians should prescribe them only when they are sure patients will get substantial benefits,” said Randall Stafford, M.D., Ph.D., a Stanford associate professor of medicine and senior author of the new study.

The new research analyzed the results of a physicians’ survey conducted by health-care information company IMS Health. The IMS Health National Disease and Therapeutic Index survey gives a snapshot of the conditions doctors treated and drugs they prescribed. About 1,800 physicians participate each calendar quarter and each is randomly assigned two days per quarter to provide data.

After identifying which antipsychotics were being used, and for what, the researchers assessed the strength of the evidence supporting those that lacked FDA approval, using efficacy ratings from the widely used drug compendium, Drugdex.

The researchers found that: