Psychosis, a break in reality which is manifested as hallucinations, delusions or the disruption in thought process, is the hallmark of schizophrenia. Despite novel pharmacotherapy advancements of antipsychotic medications that have resulted in some patients having the ability to return to social settings and thereby decreasing psychotic symptoms and reducing hospital admissions, there is still a sub-population of patients who remain symptomatic. Treatment-resistant schizophrenia is defined as failure of treatment with at least two different antipsychotics with the proper length of treatment and titration. Clozapine has been heralded as a drug to resolve the puzzle of treatment-resistant schizophrenia. Clozapine has one side effect that is well known, being the development of agranulocytosis. However, there is another side effect that can limit clozapine’s use and can also be life-threatening. Recently, at the end of January 2020, the FDA issued a communications statement which “[strengthened] an existing warning that constipation caused by the schizophrenia medicine clozapine can, uncommonly, progress to serious bowel complications.” After identifying ten cases of constipation from between 2006 to 2016 that progressed to hospitalization, surgery, and even death, the FDA focused their attention on this often overlooked, common side effect, especially when considering the strong anticholinergic effects of clozapine. Although patients are screened by their physicians for agranulocytosis by weekly lab monitoring, constipation is also a complication that needs to be identified and treated. Much like opioid-induced constipation, constipation can also be reduced with the use of laxatives and reduction in the co-prescribing of anticholinergic therapies with clozapine.
Kaye, A. M.,
Edinoff, A. N.,
Ochoa, C. O.,
Cornett, E. M.,
Pham, A. D.,
Kaye, A. D.
Clozapine and Constipation: A Review of Clinical Considerations and Treatment Options.
Psychiatry International, 2(26), 344–352.
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