PHILADELPHIA - The potential for harmful side effects associated with anti-psychotic medications for treating schizophrenia is a frustration for mental-health professionals who must balance this with the positive benefits of drugs. For example, the issue of the antipsychotic drug ziprasidone lengthening the QTc interval, a possible indicator of life-threatening heart arrhythmias, has demanded much attention among clinicians since the drug was introduced in 2001.
Ziprasidone (marketed as Geodon and Zeldox by Pfizer Inc.) was the fifth second-generation anti-psychotic to gain Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. These second-generation drugs have been thought to be associated with a lower risk of suicides, better functional capacity, and an improved quality of life for people with schizophrenia. (It is well known that patients with schizophrenia suffer an overall increased risk of death.) But questions remained as to whether the modest QTc prolongation caused by ziprasidone would translate into increased mortality for the patients using it.
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