The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Medicine or Cash Cow

May 14, 2018

The off-label use of the drug Seroquel is linked to thousands of deaths. Seroquel is a powerful antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia. However, doctors have been prescribing this drug for insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder and agitation in patients with dementia. Twelve years ago the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accused the drug company AstraZeneca of “false and misleading” information about health risks in the marketing material for Seroquel, which was increasingly prescribed “off-label” for insomnia.

A Washington Post analysis of more than four years of the most recent data found about 20,000 cases where Seroquel or its generic equivalent, quetiapine, was listed as the primary or secondary suspect in an adverse event. That included more than 4,000 deaths. Overall, 93 percent of these events were apparently the result of off-label prescribing.

Medical experts say that Seroquel can cause diabetes, heart arrhythmias, irreversible movement disorders and death. “The range of problems it causes in terms of deteriorating quality of life makes it not worth it,” said David Healy, a psychiatrist. Healy says he only prescribes Seroquel as a last resort, to his most seriously ill schizophrenic patients in order “to be able to function.” Using Seroquel to treat insomnia is like using a nuclear reactor to boil water for tea.

In order to make their billions, AstraZeneca artificially increased their market from just people suffering from schizophrenia, broadening out to include people suffering from insomnia and other complaints. The company targeted doctors with no experience in handling these powerful drugs. Paying out a billion dollars in lawsuit settlements is just a slap on the wrist for them. They continue to put their profits ahead of the health and safety of patients who use the drug they are peddling.