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Diabetes Care. 2003 May;26(5):1597-605.

Patients on atypical antipsychotic drugs: another high-risk group for type 2 diabetes.

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  • 1Department of Human Nutrition, University of Glasgow, UK. mej.lean@clinmed.gla.ac.uk


Patients with schizophrenia are more likely than the general population to develop diabetes, which contributes to a high risk of cardiovascular complications; individuals with schizophrenia are two to three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than the general population. The risk of diabetes, and hence cardiovascular disease, is particularly increased by some of the new atypical antipsychotic drugs. Individuals taking an atypical antipsychotic drug, particularly younger patients under 40 years of age (odds ratio 1.63, 95% CI 1.23-2.16), represent an underrecognized group at high risk of type 2 diabetes. The mechanisms responsible for antipsychotic-induced diabetes remain unclear. Hypotheses include these drugs' potential to cause weight gain, possibly through antagonism at the H(1), 5-HT(2A), or 5-HT(2C) receptors. Other mechanisms independent of weight gain lead to elevation of serum leptin and insulin resistance. Patients with psychoses have difficulties with diet and lifestyle interventions for diabetes and weight management. If hyperglycemia develops, withdrawal from antipsychotic medication will often be inappropriate, and a change to an atypical antipsychotic drug with lower diabetogenic potential should be considered, especially in younger patients. Management of psychoses should routinely include body weight and blood glucose monitoring and steps to promote exercise and minimize weight gain. Careful collaboration between the psychiatric and diabetology teams is essential to minimize the risk of diabetes in patients taking atypical antipsychotic medication and for effective management when it develops. This collaboration will also help minimize the already high risk of cardiovascular disease in individuals with schizophrenia.

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