SSRI Litigation

Treating Bipolar Disorder with Symbyax

Symbyax® is the brand name for capsules containing both fluoxetine (brand names Prozac®, Sarefem®, Rapiflux®, or Selfemra®)1 and olanzapine (brand name Zyprexa®).2 This drug provides both a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and an antipsychotic in one medication for the treatment of depressive episodes in bipolar I disorder (manic depression) and treatment-resistant depression.3 4

Symptoms of bipolar disorder

People with bipolar disorder suffer from "mood episodes" in which they experience intense emotional states. In these instances, the person tends to swing from manic to depressive, which is why the condition is commonly referred to as manic depression.5 In addition to mood swings, irritability, and restlessness, the symptoms of bipolar disorder include extreme changes in:

  • Energy
  • Activity
  • Sleep
  • Behavior

Symptoms of the particular mood episodes reflect the person's current emotional state. A depressed person will exhibit fatigue, an inability to concentrate, and potentially suicidal behaviors, while a manic person will often act overly happy, with bad judgment, or with impulsiveness. Many people with bipolar disorder experience sleep disturbances and can experience a mixed state of mood in which they are both depressed and energized.6

Bipolar treatment guidelines

The goals of the treatment guidelines for bipolar disorder are to help a person function between episodes and minimize how often those episodes occur. How bipolar disorder is treated depends on the person’s underlying mental health issues and whether certain medications have worked in the past.5

Medications used to treat bipolar disorder include antipsychotic and anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines) and antidepressants, as well as mood stabilizers like lithium and valproate. Combination drugs like Symbyax combine antipsychotics and antidepressants, addressing both ends of the mood spectrum. Certain therapies like shock treatment (called electroconvulsant therapy) and stimulation with magnets on the head (called transcranial magnetic stimulation) are also used. Support programs for people suffering bipolar disorder are often important as well.5

Unfortunately, a 2005 review of guidelines for treating bipolar disorder found that the guidelines are not consistent and often become outdated soon after being formalized.7 The U.S. alone has three different sets of guidelines.8

Symbyax prescription risks

Though Symbyax is prescribed to treat manic depression, the drug has a risk of increasing suicidal thoughts. The FDA warns patients and doctors that the drug is only meant for short-term use. Other risks of using Symbyax include:9

  • High blood sugar
  • High cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood
  • Weight gain
  • Risk of death if used to treat elderly patients with dementia

The olanzapine in Symbyax can cause heart failure, sudden death, or pneumonia if used to treat psychotic conditions related to dementia, and can lead to withdrawal symptoms in babies born to women who take the drug during the last trimester. The fluoxetine in Symbyax can result in birth defects if pregnant women take the drug.3

If you or a loved one was unexpectedly injured by taking Symbyax for bipolar disorder, a personal injury attorney can review your case and determine if you are eligible for compensation.

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