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Am Health Drug Benefits. 2011 Sep;4(5):292-302.

Atypical antipsychotics and metabolic syndrome in patients with schizophrenia: risk factors, monitoring, and healthcare implications.

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Senior Vice President of Medical and Scientific Affairs.
Senior Vice President of Medical and Scientific Affairs, Drug Safety.
Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, Worldwide Clinical Trials, King of Prussia, PA.



Metabolic syndrome is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with schizophrenia, with a prevalence rate double that of nonpsychiatric populations. Given the amount of evidence suggesting a link between atypical antipsychotic medications and metabolic syndrome, several agencies have recommended regular clinical monitoring of weight, symptoms of hyperglycemia, and glucose in chronically medicated patients with schizophrenia.


To summarize the current literature on atypical antipsychotic-induced metabolic syndrome in patients with schizophrenia, outline some of the molecular mechanisms behind this syndrome, identify demographic and disease-related risk factors, and describe cost-effective methods for surveillance.


The differential prevalence of metabolic syndrome associated with various atypical antipsychotic medications has been evidenced across numerous studies, with higher effects seen for certain antipsychotic medications on weight gain, waist circumference, fasting triglyceride level, and glucose levels. Given the association of these symptoms, all atypical antipsychotic medications currently include a warning about the risk of hyperglycemia and diabetes, as well as suggestions for regular monitoring. Despite this, very little data are available to support adherence to these monitoring recommendations. Lack of awareness and resources, diffusion of responsibility, policy implementation, and organizational structure have all been implicated.


The treatment of schizophrenia involves a balance in terms of risks and benefits. Failing to treat because of risk for complications from metabolic syndrome may place the patient at a higher risk for more serious health outcomes. Supporting programs aimed at increasing monitoring of simple laboratory and clinical measures associated with metabolic syndrome may decrease important risk factors, improve patients' quality of life, and reduce healthcare costs.


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