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Clozaril Treats Suicidal Behavior

Anti-psychotic drug helps schizophrenics

FRIDAY, Dec. 20, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the anti-psychotic drug Clozaril (clozapine) to treat recurrent suicidal behavior among schizophrenics.

The drug, produced by Novartis, was first approved as a treatment for schizophrenia in 1989. The new approval allows the drug to be marketed and prescribed specifically to treat suicidal tendencies among those with the disease.

The brain disorder affects about 1 of every 100 Americans, the FDA says. Some 20 percent to 40 percent of schizophrenic patients attempt suicide.

The approval follows two years of clinical trials that compared patients on Clozaril with those on a drug from the same family, olanzapine. Among the 980 participants, those on Clozaril made fewer suicide attempts and required fewer hospitalizations for suicidal tendencies.

Clozaril does have a dangerous side effect -- it puts those who take it at risk of a dangerous blood disorder called agranulocytosis. The FDA says frequent blood tests are necessary to check for the condition.

About 3,600 suicides each year in the United States are associated with schizophrenia, the FDA says.

Here is the FDA Talk Paper describing the new approval. For more information about schizophrenia, check the National Institute of Mental Health.

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