The U.S. military is limiting the use of certain antipsychotic drugs such as Seroquel for treatment of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). These drugs, used to treat severe mental illness, are sometimes prescribed in lower doses to relieve symptoms of PTSD and anxiety. When they are mixed with other prescriptions, however, they can be dangerous and even deadly.
Assistant Secretary of Defense Jonathan Woodson sent a memo to all U.S. military branches in February, warning of the overprescribing of antipsychotic medications for treating PTSD, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Antipsychotic drugs such as Seroquel are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for PTSD treatment. While drug companies cannot market these drugs for uses other than those approved by the FDA, doctors can legally prescribe them for other conditions. This is known as off-label use.
The number of prescriptions for antipsychotics rose tenfold from 2002 to 2009, from 0.1 percent to 1 percent, the Army Times reports. In fiscal 2010, Seroquel was prescribed to 1.4 percent of Army personnel, and 0.7 percent of Marines. As of March 27, any service member who takes an antipsychotic cannot deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan without explicit permission from the Central Command surgeon. Previously, the drug was approved as a sleep aid, without any oversight.
The Army’s Office of the Surgeon General issued a memo for PTSD in April that included a warning about antipsychotic drugs. “There are numerous concerns with potential long-term adverse health effects,” the memo said, “and these medications have shown disappointing results in clinical trials in the treatment of PTSD.”