Questions are being raised over whether a widely prescribed anti-psychotic drug may be contributing to the deaths of traumatized U.S. war veterans.
Among those who recently died while taking AstraZeneca’s blockbuster drug Seroquel are Marine corporals Andrew White and Chad Oligschlaeger. Both were being given multiple drugs, including Seroquel, for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Both died in their sleep.
Seroquel is the United States’ fifth-best-selling drug, and one of the top prescribed drugs by the Veteran Affairs Department. Since the start of the Afghanistan war, government spending on the drug has increased more than 770 percent to $8.6 million per year. Yet in the same time period, the number of patients being treated by the department increased by only 34 percent.
The drug is approved only for the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, yet it is commonly given to vets for insomnia and other PTSD symptoms. According to The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge, other side effects “may include dry mouth, blurred vision, and tardive dyskinesia, typified by involuntary movements of the lips, mouth, and tongue.” Other proven side effects include weight gain and diabetes, while new research suggests that the drug may also cause sudden heart failure.
Medical examiners concluded that both White and Oligschlaeger died of “multiple drug toxicity” caused by a deadly interaction between the different drugs they were taking; such deaths are not recorded as caused by any single drug. Yet family and advocates of vets are becoming increasingly concerned that Seroquel may bear a large part of the blame for such deaths, and are calling for a reevaluation of prescribing practices for the drug.
“Right now, I’m so angry, and I believe someone needs to be held accountable,” said Oligschlaeger’s mother, Julie Oligschlaeger. “The protocol absolutely has to change.”
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