Intravenous Olanzapine for the Management of Agitation: Review of the Literature

Ann Pharmacother. 2019 Aug;53(8):853-859. doi: 10.1177/1060028019831634. Epub 2019 Feb 13.


Objective: The purpose of this review is to summarize the current evidence of the off-label use of intravenous (IV) olanzapine and discuss its risks versus benefits for the management of agitation. Data Sources: A literature search was conducted to gather relevant data regarding IV use of olanzapine for the management of acute agitation. PubMed, EMBASE, MEDLINE, and IPA were searched using the keywords and MESH terms: olanzapine, intravenous, IV, off-label, and agitation. Study Selection and Data Extraction: All case reports, and retrospective and prospective studies evaluating the efficacy and safety of IV olanzapine administration for agitation from January 2004 to December 2018 were analyzed. Data Synthesis: Doses from 2.5 to 10 mg given as an IV bolus (maximum dose of 30 mg/d) have been administered. Rescue medications such as droperidol or parenteral benzodiazepines are sometimes coadministered to assist with achieving adequate sedation. Prospective studies demonstrate efficacy similar to droperidol in achieving adequate sedation within 10 minutes and similar time to onset of sedation. Rates of respiratory depression and airway obstruction are low and similar to that of comparative agents, including intramuscular olanzapine. Relevance to Patient Care and Clinical Practice: This review evaluated the off-label use of IV olanzapine to manage agitation based on case reports, and retrospective and prospective data. Conclusions: The use of IV olanzapine remains controversial in the absence of clear evidence evaluating safety and efficacy. Future studies are warranted comparing IV olanzapine with more commonly utilized and Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment modalities for acute agitation in the emergency department and other settings.

Keywords: agitation; antipsychotics; intravenous administration; off-label use; olanzapine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Off-Label Use*
  • Olanzapine / administration & dosage*
  • Olanzapine / therapeutic use
  • Psychomotor Agitation / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Olanzapine