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What is Olanzapine?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 17, 2024

Olanzapine is an atypical antipsychotic developed by Eli Lilly and Company and approved for sale in 1996. After patent expiration in 2011, generic versions of olanzapine can be produced by any manufacturer as long as they are pharmacologically equivalent to Eli Lilly's brand name versions. Some brand names formulations for the drug include: Zyprexa®, Zolafren®, and Symbyax®.

This drug was initially approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States for the treatment of schizophrenia. It has also been approved for use in the treatment of depression and bipolar disorder, and off label uses include anxiety disorders. The recommended olanzapine dosage varies, depending on the patient and his or her situation. Tablets of various strengths are available along with a fast-acting intramuscular injection, and doctors may need to adjust the dosage to meet the needs of a particular patient.

Like other atypical antipsychotics, olanzapine can be dangerous for elderly patients with dementia. It is specifically not approved for use in these patients, and the American packaging for the drug bears a black box warning highlighting this fact. Olanzapine can also interact poorly with certain other medications, including over the counter medications, making it important for patients to discuss all of the medications they take and any past history of poor drug interactions with their doctors when this drug is prescribed.

Side effects of olanzapine can include: weight gain, difficulty swallowing, irritability, dry mouth, seizures, irregular menstrual cycles, urinary retention, elevated blood pressure, restlessness, and runny nose. Patients can also develop tardive dyskinesia, in which they experience involuntary muscle movements, especially if they have been taking the drug for a prolonged period at a high dosage. Patients should discuss the side effects they experience with their doctors, as it may be possible to switch medications or adjust dosages to make a patient feel more comfortable.

Managing psychiatric conditions is very complicated, and a patient may need to try several drugs, dosages, and therapeutic techniques before finding a method which is safe and effective. Patients on olanzapine may find that the drug stops working as effectively, or that they experience new symptoms, and they should report these changes to their prescribing doctors. It is also important to receive regular health care to monitor patients for the emergence of other health problems and medical issues of concern, as the long term use of some antipsychotic medications, including olanzapine, is linked with other health problems such as diabetes.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon129121 — On Nov 22, 2010

is this a certain kind of pill, meaning is this a benzo?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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