Sunday, July 08, 2007

\Antipsychotics Killing Hundreds - Adverse Reports in Thousands

Daily Telegraph
Cures killing hundreds
By Clare Masters
July 09, 2007

HUNDREDS of Australians have died and thousands more suffered gruesome side effects after taking anti-psychotic medications, official figures have revealed.

Data from the nation's drug watchdog the Therapeutic Goods Administration shows 9532 adverse reports involving anti-psychotics in the past 15 years, including 399 deaths.

Of those adverse reports 390 involved children and teenagers, with some of the official papers reporting side effects like face twisting and massive weight gain, while others showed life-threatening reactions such as heart problems.

A TGA spokeswoman yesterday confirmed the data.

Anti-psychotics are medications generally used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. Up to 1 per cent of the Australian population experience schizophrenia at some stage in their lives and about 4 per cent experience bipolar.

The figures come as an Australian law firm takes on drugs giant Eli Lilly in a class action from a group of Australians who claim they suffered side effects after taking the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa.

Queensland firm Nicol Robinson Halletts is representing patients from across Australia who claim symptoms such as weight gain, diabetes and pancreatitis.

"We are now in the double figures with clients from Zyprexa and we are seeing a number of alleged problems," lawyer Simon Harrison told The Daily Telegraph.

"The problems vary from inadequate policing of the medication to the alleged side effects of the medication not being conveyed," he said.

The TGA data covers a number of anti-psychotics including Zyprexa and catalogues thousands of serious side effects including a boy, 15, whose weight ballooned from 60kg to 100kg in 2002.

Another adverse anti-psychotic drug report described a 15-year-old girl who suffered "facial twisting, grimacing and frowning" in 2000 and in 2005 a 15 year old male was vomiting so severely he was hospitalised.

The deaths include a woman, 39, in 2000 who died a "sudden death" after weight gain and a 22-year-old male who had a cardiac arrest in 2003 due to anti-psychotics.

University of NSW Head of psychiatry Professor Philip Mitchell said anti-psychotics were widely used in teenagers as symptoms of bi-polar often present in the teenage years.

He was not alarmed by the data and said a number of new anti-psychotic drugs had emerged in the past 10 to 15 years which probably accounted for the reported adverse reactions.

A spokeswoman for Eli Lilly said they were aware of the initial case but did not have any details of the class action.

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