Easy-to-read medicine information about quetiapine – what it is, how to take quetiapine safely and possible side effects.
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What is quetiapine?
Quetiapine is used to treat some types of mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (manic depression). It does not cure these conditions, but is used to help ease the symptoms and help you on your recovery path. It can help improve symptoms such as extreme mood swings of bipolar disorder, the experience of hearing voices (hallucinations), ideas that distress you and don't seem to be based in reality (delusions), and difficulty in thinking clearly (thought disorder). Quetiapine belongs to a group of medicines called antipsychotics. Read more about antipsychotic medication.
In New Zealand quetiapine is available as tablets.
- The dose of quetiapine is different for different people.
- Your doctor will start you on a low dose and increase it over a few days. This allows your body to get used to the medicine and reduces side effects
- Always take your quetiapine exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much quetiapine to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.
How to take quetiapine
- Quetiapine is usually taken twice a day, in the morning and evening. Try taking your quetiapine dose at the same times each day.
- If you are taking quetiapine for depression, take it once a day, at bedtime.
- Swallow your quetiapine tablets with a glass of water.
- You can take quetiapine with or without food.
- If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day. But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.
- Keep taking quetiapine every day. It usually takes a few weeks to start working and it can take several months before you feel the full benefits.
- Do not stop taking quetiapine suddenly as your symptoms may return if stopped too early; speak to your doctor or nurse before stopping.
Precautions – before starting quetiapine
- Do you have any heart problems such as an irregular heartbeat or low blood pressure?
- Do you have Parkinson’s Disease or epilepsy?
- Do you have diabetes or problems with high cholesterol?
- Have you had a stroke or blood clot?
- Are you under 25 years old?
- Are you taking any other medicines, including medicines you can buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines?
If any of these apply, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you start quetiapine. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care, that your pharmacist will tell you about.
Precautions – while taking quetiapine
- Alcohol: avoid alcohol while you are taking quetiapine, especially when you first start treatment. Drinking alcohol while taking quetiapine can cause drowsiness and affect concentration, putting you at risk of falls and other accidents. It can also cause agitation, aggression and forgetfulness. If you do drink alcohol, drink only small amounts and see how you feel. Do not stop taking your medication.
- Weight: let your doctor know if you notice that you are putting on a lot of weight, especially when you first start taking quetiapine.
- Blood tests and other monitoring: quetiapine may cause changes in your blood glucose level, your cholesterol level and in your heart function. To keep an eye out for these effects, your doctor will check your physical health. You will have your weight measured regularly. You may also need to have blood tests to check your kidneys, liver, cholesterol and glucose levels. You may also have your blood pressure measured and an ECG test to check your heart rate.
Possible side effects
Like all medicines, quetiapine can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.
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Quetiapine interacts with many other medications and herbal supplements so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting quetiapine or before starting any new medicines.
The following links have more information on quetiapine. Be aware that websites from other countries may contain information that differs from New Zealand recommendations:
- Quetiapine New Zealand Formulary
- Antipsychotic drugs New Zealand Formulary
- Prescribing atypical antipsychotics in general practice BPAC, 2011
- Managing patients with dementia: What is the role of antipsychotics? BPAC, 2013