It has been known for years that some—not necessarily all—second-generation drugs have severe metabolic side effects. These effects are common, not rare. Metabolic changes induced will increase risk of an early death substantially unless persons receiving these treatments are immune to effects observed in the general population. In fact, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and pulmonary disease are already associated with early death of persons with schizophrenia where mortality rates are already two to six times standard mortality rates (see SRF related news story). The fact that these populations have increased risk from other lifestyle problems (e.g., diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and stress) increases the need for clinicians to minimize risk from iatrogenic sources. The importance of the report by Correll et al. is not based on surprising new data. Rather, it is the ability to bring extensive attention to this problem to the broad medical field and the public.
The increased safety and efficacy of second-generation antipsychotic drugs was debunked before the turn of the century, and the value of the CATIE and CUtLASS studies was more in their ability to spark the public discussion than in surprising new data (Lieberman et al., 2005; Jones et al., 2006). In young people, the antipsychotic drugs with serious metabolic adverse profiles should rarely be considered. Clozapine for some childhood-onset schizophrenia patients may be one of the exceptions. Antipsychotic drugs are usually prescribed with long-term use in mind. If a clinician considers this essential therapy—as it often is in schizophrenia, less so in bipolar disorder, where effective and safer drugs are available—selection of compounds based on safety and tolerability is essential. In this regard, prescribing drugs such as olanzapine is very difficult to defend. The importance of this report being published in JAMA is underscored by the reports of Lilly directing representatives to market olanzapine to primary care providers who are less aware of the metabolic effects (see, e.g., Attorney Generalís Settlement).
View all comments by William Carpenter