Zyprexa is a second generation or atypical antipsychotic medication. The drug’s generic name is olanzapine. Antipsychotic medicines are used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia, including hearing voices, seeing things, or sensing things that aren’t there and having mistaken beliefs or unusual suspicions.
Zyprexa is also approved to treat mixed or manic episodes in adults who have a condition called Bipolar I disorder, and may also be used with lithium or valproate for short-term treatment of acute manic episodes of bipolar disorder. Eli Lilly and Company manufactures Zyprexa. The drug was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996.
Zyprexa FDA Alert
In June 2013, the FDA announced that it was investigating two unexplained deaths in patients who received Zyprexa Relprew (olanzapine pamoate) injections. Both people reportedly died 3-4 days after receiving the injection, after the 3-hour monitoring period required by the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS). It wasn't clear if the individuals died of post-injection delirium sedation syndrome (PDSS), a serious condition when Zyprexa enters the blood too quickly after being shot into the muscle, resulting in sedation, coma, or delirium.
In April 2005, the FDA issued a public health advisory stating that older patients treated with atypical antipsychotic medicines, such as Zyprexa, for dementia had a higher chance for death than patients who didn’t take the medicine. The FDA stated further that this isn’t an approved use and asked the companies that make these medicines to change their labels to include this important information.
In August 2008, the FDA revised the Zyprexa warnings to inform patients and doctors about the increased mortality risk in elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis. This warning also included that Zyprexa isn’t an approved treatment of dementia-related psychosis. Later, in 2009, Eli Lilly, the makers of Zyprexa, paid $1.42 billion to settle civil lawsuits and pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of illegally marketing Zyprexa for an unapproved by the FDA use, namely for dementia treatment.
Zyprexa Health Risks
Antipsychotic medications, including Zyprexa, can cause serious health problems such as:
- Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS) – NMS is a life-threatening nervous system problem that can cause high fever, stiff muscles, sweating, fast, or irregular heartbeat, change in blood pressure, and confusion. NMS can also affect your kidneys and is a medical emergency. Call your doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms.
- Tardive Dyskinesia (TD) – TD is a type of movement problem. You should call your doctor right away if you experience muscle movements that can’t be stopped.
- High blood sugar and diabetes - Patients who have diabetes or are at risk for diabetes should have their blood sugar checked often.
- Strokes – Some older patients being treated for mental illness from dementia have had strokes while taking the medication. Again, Zyprexa isn't approved for this use.
- Dizziness and sometimes fainting – Dizziness and fainting may occur with Zyprexa from a drop in blood pressure, especially when you first start taking the drug or when the dose is increased.
Additionally, Zyprexa may impair judgment, thinking, or motor skills. You should be careful when operating machinery, including automobiles, until you know how Zyprexa affects you. It's important to avoid overheating and dehydration while taking the medication, because Zyprexa use may make it harder to lower your body temperature.
Interactions with Other Drugs or Foods
Zyprexa can interact with other foods or drugs you take. Therefore, you should talk first with your doctor and pharmacist about all prescription and non-prescription medicines you are taking. Your healthcare professional may have to adjust your dose or monitor you more closely if you take the following medications:
- Blood pressure medicines
- Levodopa and other medicines called dopamine agonists
As with many prescription medications, you should avoid drinking alcohol while taking Zyprexa.
Getting Legal Help
Under product liability law, the manufacturers of prescription drugs have a duty to make their products as reasonably safe as possible, and to inform the medical community and the public of known risks associated with their medications. If a manufacturer fails to do so, it can be held legally responsible for any injuries patients suffer as the result of inadequate warnings or the unreasonably dangerous designof the drug.
If you or a loved one has experienced any serious side effects or unusual medical conditions while taking Zyprexa, you should first contact your doctor or other healthcare professional. it’s also a good idea to consult with an experienced product liability attorney to discuss your options and to protect your right to a legal remedy.
To learn more about an attorney's role in a pharmaceutical liability case, see the Get Legal Help with a Defective Product Injury article.