Military Families Asking Congress to Investigate Seroquel
Families of several soldiers who died while taking the very potent anti-pyschotic drug known as Seroquel say the government is not being up front about the drug's risks and they are now asking asking Congress to investigate this drug.
Many questions remain unanswered with Seroquel treatment.
It is currently unclear how many soldiers have died while taking Seroquel, or if the drug definitely contributed to the deaths. However, the drug's potential side effects, including diabetes, weight gain and uncontrollable muscle spasms, have resulted in thousands of lawsuits.
Physicians interviewed about the success of AstraZeneca's second-best-selling product said they began prescribing Seroquel because it was the only drug that offered relief from the nightmares and anxiety of PTSD.
"By accident, some people were giving them Seroquel for anxiety or depression, and the veterans said, 'This is the first time I have slept six or seven hours straight all night. Please give me more of that.' And the word spread," said Dr. Henry Nasrallah of the University of Cincinnati, who has treated PTSD patients for more than 25 years.
Seroquel is approved to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, but it has not been endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for insomnia. However, psychiatrists are permitted to prescribe approved drugs for other uses in a common practice known as "off-label" prescribing.
Most of the soldiers and veterans seeking treatment for PTSD do so at hospitals run by the VA or the Defense Department.The VA's spending on Seroquel has increased more than 770 percent since 2001. In that same time frame, the number of patients covered by the VA increased just 34 percent.
Seroquel has been the VA's second-biggest prescription drug expenditure since 2007, behind the blood-thinner Plavix. The agency spent $125.4 million last fiscal year on Seroquel, up from $14.4 million in 2001. Spending on Seroquel by the Department of Defense, has increased nearly 700 percent since 2001, to $8.6 million last year, according to purchase records.
The drug, approved in 1997, is AstraZeneca's second-best-selling product, with U.S. sales of $4.2 billion last year. But that success has been marred by allegations that the company illegally marketed the drug and minimized its risks. In fact, AstraZeneca agreed to pay $520 million in April to settle federal allegations that its salespeople pitched Seroquel for numerous off-label uses, including insomnia.
Meanwhile the military families are devastated and are asking Congress to investigate this potentially deadly drug Seroquel.