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Zyprexa Overview

Zyprexa is the brand name for olanzapine, which is the drug's generic name. It's a second-generation, atypical antipsychotic medication. Doctors use antipsychotic medicines to treat symptoms of schizophrenia. This includes hearing voices, seeing things, or sensing things that aren't there.

The FDA also approved Zyprexa to treat mixed or manic episodes in adults with bipolar I disorder. Some patients take it with lithium or valproate for the short-term treatment of acute manic episodes of bipolar disorder.

Studies have also shown that Zyprexa may help patients with breast cancer. The drug helps reduce the nausea these patients experience while undergoing treatment.

Eli Lilly and Company manufactures Zyprexa. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved this medication in 1996.

As with most drug companies, Eli Lilly and Company has experienced its fair share of problems with Zyprexa. The manufacturer has faced government lawsuits and allegations of fatalities over the years.

In this article, we'll discuss the common side effects of Zyprexa, its health risks for certain patients, and actions by the FDA. You can also find information about what to do if you experience an injury while taking Zyprexa.

Common Side Effects of Zyprexa

Most prescription medications have side effects. Usually, these side effects are minor. Unfortunately, some side effects are severe and cause serious health risks.

Some of the possible side effects of Zyprexa include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Restlessness
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Tremors
  • Drowsiness

Most patients can tolerate these side effects. But if you experience severe side effects, seek immediate medical attention.

Zyprexa Health Risks

In addition to the above side effects, Zyprexa carries significant health risks. Antipsychotic medications, including Zyprexa, can cause an increased risk of the following conditions.

Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome

Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) is a life-threatening nervous system condition. It can cause:

  • High fever
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Change in blood pressure
  • Confusion

NMS can also affect your kidneys. Seek medical advice immediately if you notice these symptoms.

Tardive Dyskinesia

Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a type of movement problem. You should call your doctor immediately if you experience muscle movements that you can't stop.

High Blood Sugar and Diabetes

Patients who have diabetes or are at risk for diabetes should have their blood sugar checked often.


Some older patients with mental illness are at risk of stroke while taking the medication. This is why the FDA has not approved Zyprexa for use in patients with dementia.

Interactions With Other Drugs

Consider potential complications before starting Zyprexa. Once you're taking the drug, you should not stop taking it cold turkey. It may cause severe withdrawal symptoms. You should call your healthcare provider to discuss an alternative treatment plan.

This also applies to patients who have an allergic reaction to Zyprexa. Zyprexa can interact with other foods or drugs you take. Talk with your doctor and pharmacist about all prescription and non-prescription medicines you are taking. Also, let them know if you take:

  • Supplements
  • Vitamins
  • Other health products

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 drugs called “dopamine agonists"
  • Omeprazole
  • Rifampin
  • Carbamazepine
  • Fluvoxamine

You may experience adverse drug interactions if you take any of these drugs while taking Zyprexa. As with many prescription medications, you should avoid drinking alcohol while taking Zyprexa and Zyprexa Zydis. Keep your medicines in a safe place at room temperature.

Talk to Your Healthcare Professional Before Taking Zyprexa

Before taking Zyprexa, tell your healthcare professional if you have any severe medical conditions. Antipsychotic medications can worsen specific health issues.

Specifically, inform your doctor if you have any of the following serious side effects:

Also, let your physician know if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Women who are breastfeeding should not take Zyprexa. The medicine can enter your breast milk and injure your baby. Avoid Zyprexa if you drink alcohol or use recreational drugs.

Zyprexa Research

2020 study found that patients taking Zyprexa for schizophrenia were at high risk of developing dyslipidemia. This is a condition where a patient exhibits very high lipid levels in their blood. Higher levels of triglycerides can lead to cardiac problems.

Researchers stated that patients showed increased cholesterol levels after just four weeks of taking Zyprexa.

That same year, the National Cancer Institute funded a study to see if Zyprexa helped cancer patients. The study showed that Zyprexa helps reduce nausea and vomiting in patients with advanced cancer. Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of chemotherapy treatment.

January 2009: Eli Lilly Settles Criminal and Civil Litigation

The FDA approved Zyprexa for multiple uses. It initially approved the drug to treat psychotic disorders in 1996. In January 2000, the FDA approved Zyprexa for patients with bipolar I. Later that year, it approved the drug for the short-term treatment of schizophrenia.

Eli Lilly trained its sales force to promote and market the medication for several off-label uses. For example, the drugmaker promoted Zyprex to treat dementia, generalized sleep disorders, and depression.

The federal government filed criminal action against Eli Lilly for fraudulent marketing of Zyprex. The company agreed to pay $515 million in fines and another $800 million in damages.

FDA Investigates Deaths in Zyprexa Patients

In 2015, two patients taking Zyprexa died. The patients used an injectable version of Zyprexa (Relprevv). Shortly after having their injections, the patients passed away. The FDA immediately ordered Eli Lilly and Company to conduct an animal study to help determine if the medication caused the two deaths.

The study confirmed that some of the animals researchers injected with Zyprexa Relprevv had high levels of the drug in their system. But the FDA said the studies were inconclusive in proving the cause of death in the two patients. The studies also failed to disprove the cause of death in the two patients.

At the time of the deaths, Eli Lilly already had a label on the drug packaging indicating a risk of post-injection delirium syndrome.

FDA Approves New Combo Drug To Reduce Weight Gain

One complaint many patients taking Zyprexa and other antipsychotics have is that they gain a lot of weight while on the drugs. This causes some patients to stop taking their medication abruptly. Many don't tell their doctor.

In June 2021, the FDA approved a combination drug (Lybalvi) that helps Zyprexa patients maintain a healthy weight while taking their antipsychotics. This new drug combines olanzapine (Zyprexa) with an opioid antagonist (Samidorphan). Patients taking this new medication may avoid weight gain.

What To Do if You Become Sick After Taking Zyprexa

Drug manufacturers must make their products as reasonably safe as possible. They must also inform the public and medical community of any risks their drugs carry. The courts may hold them legally responsible under product liability if they don't.

If you or a loved one experiences any dangerous symptoms or unusual medical conditions while taking Zyprexa, contact your healthcare professional immediately. If you believe your injuries are due to taking this medication, contact an experienced product liability attorney to discuss your options.

The same applies if you feel your doctor or psychiatrist was negligent in prescribing Zyprexa. They may not have checked for adverse drug interactions. Or they may not have told you the risk of taking Zyprexa. If so, you should talk to a medical malpractice lawyer near you.

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