Study: Antipsychotic use surged despite evidence

Another study is raising questions about widespread use of atypical antipsychotics. The newer schizophrenia meds have been adopted for a variety of other uses, including bipolar disorder and depression, but those uses aren't really warranted by the evidence, researchers concluded after reviewing data from prescribing physicians. Indeed, more than half of the 2008 scrips for atypicals were based on less-than-solid data, the Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety study found.

"What we see is wide adoption for the use of these medications far beyond the evidence base to support it," Dr. Caleb Alexander, a professors at the University of Chicago and an IMS Health consultant, told Reuters. "We're talking millions of prescriptions a year for antipsychotics in settings where there is uncertain evidence to support them."

The research team, which also included Stanford University docs, analyzed data from an IMS Health doctor survey. The numbers showed that treatment with antipsychotics almost tripled to 16.7 million in 2008 from 6.2 million in 1995, Reuters reports. Scrips for older antipsychotics dropped to 1 million over the same period.

Some 9 million of the antipsychotic scrips in 2008 were for off-label uses, amounting to about $6 billion worth of drugs. And these are the uses that lack sufficient data; they also happen to be uses that, according to the U.S. Justice Department, were heavily marketed in defiance of FDA regulations. Indeed, three companies agreed to pay big government settlements related to their marketing of these atypicals: Eli Lilly for Zyprexa ($1.3 billion), AstraZeneca for Seroquel ($520 million), and Bristol-Myers Squibb for Abilify ($515 million). 

- get the release from Stanford
- read the Reuters news