Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Kiwis more accepting of mental health sufferers

From the December 31st edition of The New Zealand Herald:
More New Zealanders feel they could be supportive of someone with a mental illness, according to research issued yesterday.

The research, conducted periodically on behalf of the Ministry of Health's Like Minds, Like Mine programme by Phoenix Research, has tracked changes in New Zealanders' attitudes to mental illness since 1997.

Significant improvements had been made over the past decade, but the Mental Health Foundation was particularly pleased that 71 per cent of people in the latest survey reported that they knew how they could be supportive of someone experiencing mental illness, an increase of 10 per cent over the last survey in 2007.
To read the entire article, click here.

Photograph courtesy of Like Minds, Like Mine.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Schizophrenia: Medicine's Mystery - Society's Shame (Paperback, 2008)

Written by a medical writer and family member of someone suffering from schizophrenia, this book outlines all of the issues involved with schizophrenia and its treatment including stigma, history, causes, physiological changes in the brain, and best treatments. It is an ideal reference and support for family members and others interested in this disease. It is also suitable as supplementary reading for students in health care fields (including medicine and nursing), psychology, social work and any occupation that needs solid information about schizophrenia. The book is recommended by the World Fellowship for Schizophrenia and Allied Disorders on its website.
Click on the image to enlarge it.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nation Builder 2008: The Finalists - Casting a light on mental illness

From the December 26th edition of The Globe and Mail:
Michael Kirby wants a revolution in the way we regard diseases of the mind, and has established a unique charity to bring it about

By Erin Anderssen

OTTAWA -- As a math student at Dalhousie University, Michael Kirby [pictured] would spend long afternoons sitting in the "Roost," the top floor of his fraternity house, working through differential equations.

On occasion, he would know the answer after a quick glance at the problem.

"I realize it's going to take two hours to figure it out," he would say. "But I can just tell by looking that the answer is x=2."

And usually, recalls his fraternity brother George Cooper, now a prominent Halifax lawyer, he was right.

"He could just pierce through the central core," says Mr. Cooper, "and tell you the answer before he had actually done the heavy lifting to actually be able to prove it."

The ability to know the answer before others have even framed the question has marked Mr. Kirby's tenure as the first chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
To read the entire article, click here.

Also see:

Mental Health Commission Chair Michael Kirby named to Order of Canada (December 30th, 2008).

Photograph by Ashley Fraser.

Friday, December 26, 2008

150 years of healing, serving

An article published in today's edition of The Chronicle Herald:
The Nova Scotia Hospital marks a century and a half of helping patients with mental illness

By John Gillis, Health Reporter

WHEN IT WAS OPENED, the vast Mount Hope Hospital stood on the Dartmouth waterfront off Asylum Road.

Today that route is called Pleasant Street and the Nova Scotia Hospital is a collection of smaller but still imposing buildings. The site will remain a centre of psychiatric care, but years from now a passerby might be hard-pressed to imagine its institutional past.

The first patient was admitted to what was then known as a lunatic asylum 150 years ago today, A.H. MacDonald notes in his Mount Hope Then and Now: A History of the Nova Scotia Hospital.

The evolution of the facility reflects the history of modern psychiatry, Dr. Nick Delva, chief of psychiatry for the Capital district health authority, said in the hospital’s health sciences library recently.

The original hospital, the first of its kind in Nova Scotia, was founded by former Halifax mayor Hugh Bell [pictured], whose push for such a facility was backed by American advocate Dorothea Dix.

It was mainly a place to hold people with mental illnesses, rather than treat them, Dr. Delva said. A stay of two years would have been considered a short one.

He said the approach to the care of patients would likely have been centred on the idea of healthy living.

The hospital was deliberately located away from busy Halifax. Patients would be given good food and treated humanely. The hospital operated a farm across the road, partly so that it would be self-sustaining and also to give able patients an occupation.

A minority of patients would fare well enough to be discharged.

"Through just the natural courses of the illnesses, people would recover," Dr. Delva said, noting people with depression and even acute psychoses may go through cycles or "burn themselves out."

An 1876 hospital record book notes reasons for admission, including intemperance, "change of life" for a 47-year-old woman, sunstroke and measles.

Other people who would clearly be recognized as having mental illnesses today might never have seen the hospital in those days, said Dr. Alistair Munro, who worked at the Nova Scotia Hospital from 1983 to 1999 and is a former chief of psychiatry.

"Insanity was a disgrace," he said. Many people would have been kept at home, despite their illnesses, to avoid shaming their families.

There would have been some drugs available to treat mental illnesses at that time, but the fact the brain is a collection of separate cells — fundamental to current therapies — was not known until the turn of the 20th century.

The hospital grew in size, eventually holding more than 700 people. In 1918, 270 people were admitted, bringing the number under care to 746.

A letter from that year describes a patient of Dr. Lewis Thomas:

"This is to certify that Miss Mary O went insane in 1918 and died at the Nova Scotia Hospital Nov. 18, 1918. I first began to treat her on Feb. 6 for nervousness. This nervousness gradually developed into insanity. I consider that the explosion of Dec. 6, 1917 [pictured], had a good deal to do in causing this mental condition to develop."

There were major advances in the 20th century in the drugs available to treat mental illnesses, helping to drive a major shift in the approach to care.

"The expectation is that most people will live in a non-institutional setting," Dr. Delva said.

Several smaller buildings were constructed on the hospital grounds and the large original Mount Hope building eventually came down.

Those newer buildings are also destined to come down. Simpson Hall, built in 1964 as a residence for students of the hospital’s long-running nurse training program, will be demolished in the coming year to make way for four 10-bedroom houses for people getting ready to live in the community.

Plans are for the 50-year-old red-brick Purdy building, itself a waterfront icon, to fall in time.

In mid-December, there were a total of 116 in-patients at Nova Scotia Hospital buildings.

Among the artifacts on display in the library is a 1950s-era electro-convulsive therapy machine. So-called "shock treatments" may be thought of as outmoded, thanks in part to our "cultural memory" of the therapy gleaned from sources like the Oscar-winning film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dr. Munro said.

He called the 1975 film, based on a 1962 novel, "dishonest," depicting conditions and approaches that were already very dated by that time.

Electro-convulsive therapy is still a treatment given at the Nova Scotia Hospital, but it’s a far cry from the punitive and traumatic treatment many might imagine. Dr. Delva said all kinds of medical evidence supports its effectiveness in treating persistent depression. It’s given under anesthetic and patients receive muscle relaxants that eliminate violent seizures. Dr. Delva said a person can’t drive home afterward because of the anesthetic but otherwise should have no physical effects.

A majority of mental issues are now handled by family doctors in co-operation with a variety of other health practitioners.

Some psychiatric patients still spend long periods in hospital. Some are seniors with dementia, some have intellectual disabilities as well as psychiatric illnesses and there are rehabilitation services for people who need significant help getting ready to live in the community.

Between those people whose illnesses can be managed by family doctors and those who require long hospitalization are a group of patients who need a complex system of care, Dr. Delva said.

Many can still live in the community with supports and medications, though for people whose illnesses impair their understanding of how well or sick they are, contact from mental health care providers sometimes needs to be assertive.

"That means you’ve got to get out there, be their memory, be their support," Dr. Delva said. "Those are people that would have been in institutional settings for sure their whole life in the olden days."

Today, mental illness may not always be viewed as the social disgrace it once was, but a real stigma remains.

Dr. Munro attributes much of that to the terrible conditions and failure to help patients in underfunded and overcrowded psychiatric hospitals of the middle part of the 20th century.

Dr. Munro and Dr. Delva agreed funding for mental health care is still not where it needs to be. But Dr. Delva said he’s optimistic Nova Scotia is moving in the right direction.

"Good care, good facilities will remove the stigma," he said.
Photograph of the Halifax Explosion from Wikipedia.

Photograph of the Nova Scotia Hospital by rwkphotos (used under Creative Commons License).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Playing For Change: Song Around the World - "Stand By Me"

Text with the video:
From the award-winning documentary, "Playing For Change: Peace Through Music", comes the first of many "songs around the world" being released independently. Featured is a cover of the Ben E. King classic by musicians around the world adding their part to the song as it travelled the globe.

Monday, December 22, 2008

WHO Proposes Plan to Close Major MH Treatment Gap

An article published in the December 19th edition of Psychiatric News:
By Aaron Levin

The World Health Organization pushes governments and organizations around the globe to boost services for mental, neurological, and substance abuse disorders.

The "huge treatment gap" in the developing the world for psychiatric, neurological, and substance use disorders can be narrowed if governments and donors can increase funding, expand mental health services, and integrate the latter into primary care settings, said the World Health Organization (WHO) in announcing its Mental Health Gap Action Program (mhGAP) in October.

The plan seeks to strengthen commitments by governments and international organizations to put more human and financial resources into treating these disorders and expand access to targeted interventions in low-income and lower-middle-income countries.

"We have in hand, right now, all the evidence, solutions, and lines of action we need to address the global burden of morbidity and premature mortality caused by these disorders," said Margaret Chan, director general of WHO, at a news conference in Geneva. "But have no illusions.... Having evidence and a well-designed package of interventions are not enough. We will not see progress in mental health without political commitment."
To read the entire article, click here.

Margaret Chan [pictured]: "Having evidence and a well-designed package of interventions are not enough. We will not see progress in mental health without political commitment."

Credit: World Health Organization

Also see:

Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP): Scaling Up Care for Mental, Neurological, and Substance Use Disorders

Saturday, December 20, 2008

MHCC NEWS: Winter 2008-2009

To download the complete newsletter, click here (PDF).

Mental Health Stamp

From Canada Post:
In 2008, Canada Post adopted Mental Health as its chosen cause with a commitment to raise awareness for what is sometimes referred to as the “Invisible Disease.” This PERMANENT™ domestic rate (52¢) stamp has been issued as a semi-postal stamp, which means that the cost of the stamp includes a surcharge in addition to the face value. In this case, proceeds from the 10-cent surcharge will go towards mental health research and patient support.

Booklet of 10 stamps. Price: $6.20
To purchase the stamp, click here.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Semantics matter in schizophrenia

A letter to the editor published in the December 19th edition of the Vancouver Courier:
To the editor:

Re: "Hitting the High Notes," Dec. 10.

Thank you for your informative profile of musician/activist Earle Peach.

I have just one criticism. In the article, writer Lenore Rowntree referred to her sister as "schizophrenic"--a common error that a lot of people make. Perhaps she meant that her sister has schizophrenia. That makes more sense since schizophrenia is a mood disorder that often comes and goes, not a religion.

Besides that, calling people "schizophrenic" or "bipolar" pigeonholes them as walking chemical disasters. As someone who works in the mental health community, I am constantly blown away by the talented, perceptive and compassionate people around me. Many have a diagnosis like schizophrenia but can and do run circles around so-called "normal people" in the greater community. Ironically a great number of journalists are thought to have some form of bipolar disorder.

It's time for us to stand up for ourselves, be accurate and make sure that all journalists in print, radio and television are as well.

Cassandra Freeman, Vancouver

Family of man who died in Taser incident says he was ill, not violent

An article published in the December 20th edition of Mercury News (San Jose, California):
By John Woolfolk

The family of a man who died Friday after repeated Taser jolts dispute police accounts and say he already was pinned under several deputies, handcuffed and not fighting back when another officer used his stun gun.

Rather than the "strenuous, intense physical altercation" that police described, the family of 26-year-old Edwin Rodriguez [pictured] said he was confused but not combative with officers that night. They also said Rodriguez suffered from schizophrenia, a chronic mental illness that can cause hallucinations.

"He wasn't violent at any point," said Emilia Centeno, 35, a cousin whose brother and mother witnessed the incident. They have cell-phone photos showing several officers on top of Rodriguez that they say they took before the officer used the Taser.

"That is what we don't understand. Why would you use it on him more than one time when there were so many officers already on top of him and he couldn't move and wasn't fighting back?"
To read the entire article, click here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: 'Soloist' examines human side of mental illness, friendships

Posted on December 18th by
By Ivy Farguheson

If a friend or family member has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and you're at your wits end trying to figure out what to do for them, here's a suggestion. Read The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship and the Redemptive Power of Music by journalist Steve Lopez, and breathe.

Nathaniel Ayers
is a homeless man Lopez sees playing the violin near his office at the Los Angeles Times. A regular columnist for the newspaper, he decides to talk to Ayers, in hopes of coming up with his latest column.

He then enters into the complex world of mental illness, homelessness and media responsibility, opening his eyes to his own narcissistic behaviors and the beauty of freedom and music.

Ayers suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, something readers and Lopez discover early on. Through continual conversations with him, Lopez discovers that he has an impressive musical knowledge and spent time in his 20s as a student at Julliard.

With each meeting, Lopez becomes more intrigued with the community services for the homeless in Los Angeles and the struggles of truly caring for someone with schizophrenia. He continues to write columns about what he discovers in his city, but begins to wonder if he is exploiting Ayers for his own celebrity.

The Soloist is an excellent book, not because of its subject matter or the author's writing style, but because of its raw honesty. Ayers is homeless and does not wish to take medication or stay in shelters. He prefers to stay on the street, playing his music, experiencing what he believes to be true freedom.

And Lopez is a middle-class professional with his own ideas about how life should be lived and what should be done to save those who need community services.

In this work, these two men show the power of friendship and its ability to change each of us in ways we are unaware of every day. Whether Ayers moves inside or begins to take his medication is not the point of this journey. Nor is the path Lopez takes to see how he is pushing his own ideas on someone with an illness unknown to him.

The message of living and learning from the world around us is the paramount lesson in this work. Similar to A Beautiful Mind, this work certainly opens readers' minds to those living with schizophrenia. But more importantly, it opens the hearts of those who judge others for various reasons.

The Soloist
won't solve anyone's problems or answer those questioning the world of mental illness, but it will encourage readers to take a breath, slow down and love those who enter their lives.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Artist fights stigma of schizophrenia

From the December 16th edition of the Times Union:
By Lori Cullen

Amber Christian Osterhout uses her artwork to raise awareness of the stigmas and discrimination people with mental illness can suffer.
To read the entire article, click here.

The above image is by Luanne M. Ferris of the
Times Union.

The above poster is by Amber Christian Osterhout (click on the poster to enlarge it).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Targeted funding misses core areas

From the December 15th edition of the Times Colonist:
It would be a great loss if valuable agencies such as the B.C. Schizophrenia Society had to slash services -- or even close -- as an unintended consequence of a provincial government funding policy and the economic downturn.

One of the Liberal government's policy shifts after the 2001 election was a move from block funding to non-profits across the province to targeted program funding.

Where the government had reviewed an organization's overall operations and decided on an appropriate level of public funding, it adopted a new approach.

Non-profits could apply for money to cover the direct costs of specific programs. For anything else, they were on their own.

There are merits to the approach. The government has more control on how the money is used and can assess value for money spent more directly. It can set priorities, rather than leaving it up to the local non-profit to assess community needs. And ministries know where their contribution is being spent.

But the shift also created problems. Non-profits' core expenses -- rent, basic administration staff, fundraising, newsletters and programs not covered by the province -- were no longer funded. The expenses were necessary to maintain the organization, but the funding formulas didn't acknowledge that reality.

And the agencies lost the flexibility that allowed them to react to emerging needs by shuffling funding. If there was a spike in the need for services for seniors suffering from schizophrenia, for example, in the past the society could have shifted money from another program. That was no longer allowed by government.

Most rose to the challenge by seeking donations or holding fundraisers to cover core expenses. That was difficult, because donors -- like government -- respond more enthusiastically to appeals for money to support specific programs.
To read the entire article, click here.

Also see:

Sinking into debt, health care non-profits fight for survival

Image courtesy of the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society (click on the image to enlarge it).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Report: Poverty line is being cracked, but not broken

Cross-Canada action needed as economy worsens, National Council of Welfare says

A December 10th press release from the National Council of Welfare:
Toronto, December 10 – While incomes for most Canadians on welfare were stuck far below the poverty line, some cracked that line in 2007, the newest report by the National Council of Welfare says. But tough economic times mean it will be tough to really break through, unless comprehensive, nationwide action is taken, says the advisory body to the federal government.

Welfare Incomes, 2006 and 2007 looked at the circumstances of Canadians on welfare in all provinces and territories. The study by the National Council of Welfare found that in the case of the lone parent with a pre-school age child living in Quebec, welfare income for 2007 reached 100 per cent of the Market Basket Measure (MBM), a poverty line measurement that takes into account the cost of meeting basic needs in different parts of Canada.

In the case of the lone parent with a pre-schooler in Newfoundland and Labrador, welfare income slightly surpassed the MBM, at 103 per cent.

“This information is considered significant because welfare incomes in Canada have historically been only a fraction of the real costs of survival and far below the poverty line”, said John Rook, Chair of the Council. “This means that lone-parent incomes, which include social assistance and federal child benefits, have reached a level that begins to give these families a reasonable chance in life. Even more encouraging, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have poverty reduction strategies in place where social assistance is part of a larger, integrated framework with links to child care, health, education, and labour market policies. This can truly help people to get ahead.”

At the same time, however, the report found that single employable people receive welfare incomes at less than half of the MBM in most provinces, far below any measure of poverty or decency.

These incomes range from a low of 27 per cent of the MBM to a mere 67 per cent even in the best of cases. The Council is also concerned about the maze of rules and regulations that can trap welfare recipients and often discourages or even prohibits them from helping themselves out of poverty.

For example, people on welfare can keep little or none of their earnings if they can find some employment, which can discourage them from looking for work. Administrative rules vary throughout the country, but the new report details consistently how qualifying for welfare is a complicated, cumbersome and stigmatizing process.

As the economy deteriorates, the National Council of Welfare is concerned that the number of Canadians facing hardship will likely grow. In addition to welfare recipients, there are people who manage to leave the welfare system on their own, and others who can’t qualify, have been cut off or won’t sacrifice their assets or dignity to apply, Rook noted. While some may get ahead, others may be trading one form of poverty for another, and that is not good news for Canada anytime, especially not now.

“A comprehensive, pan-Canadian strategy to solve poverty is needed”, Rook added. “It should have targets and timelines, a plan of action, accountability and measurable indicators.” Many partners must be involved. Canada is not unique. “For any nation to solve poverty or foster prosperity there must be government action, political will and a real recognition of the human face of poverty.”

Media contact:
Carrie Breckenridge (613) 552-3527

The report and additional documentation are available at

For hard copies of the report, contact:
The National Council of Welfare
112 Kent Street, 9th Floor
Place de Ville, Tower B
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0J9

Telephone: (613) 957-2961
Fax: (613) 957-0680

The National Council of Welfare is an independent body established to advise the federal government on issues related to poverty and social development.

Welfare Incomes, 2006 and 2007 estimates total welfare incomes in the 13 provinces and territories for four types of households: a single employable person; a single person with a disability; a lone parent with a two-year old child, and; a two-parent family with two children aged 10 and 15. There are 53 scenarios in all because Alberta has an additional program for persons with disabilities. The NCW has produced similar estimates since 1986.

Click on the image to magnify it.

Also see:

2007 Provincial Welfare Rates Compared to the MBM (National Council of Welfare Fact Sheet)

Governments must 'step up’ on poverty

Welfare recipients poorer than Canadians imagine: report

Economy hits poor hardest

Welfare inadequate to meet needs: report

Negative feedback gets positive results

A news article posted on December 5th by Rice University:
Rice grad student’s discovery may be clue to epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia

By Mike Williams

Taking an unplanned detour from neurofibromatosis research, Eric Howlett [pictured] found something interesting: a potential clue to the roots of epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia and other neurological disorders.

The Rice University doctoral student had his “Aha!” moment while studying the peripheral nerves of the Drosophila, aka the fruit fly. That’s where he found an unanticipated connection between glutamate -- an amino acid and neurotransmitter found in much of the food we eat -- and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), an enzyme that, Howlett found, regulates the activity of neurons.
To read the entire article, click here.

Photograph courtesy of Rice University.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Manulife invests $500,000 in Nova Scotia mental health projects

A December 9th press release from Manulife Financial Corporation:
Nova Scotians living with a mental illness will benefit from a $500,000 donation announced today by Manulife Financial to support early intervention programs and community-focused living residences.

"The costs for mental illness is in the billions of dollars for the Canadian economy each year; therefore businesses have a part to play in recognizing and investing in good mental health," said Paul Rooney, President and CEO, Manulife Canada.

"It's also important that we continue to improve the way mental illness is perceived in our society so that those experiencing mental illness and their families receive the same high level of care, support and hope as those dealing with other illnesses."

"Manulife's investment will play a part in helping us achieve our vision of making sure the people of Nova Scotia are healthy, especially our youngest Nova Scotians," said Premier Rodney MacDonald. "This is so much more than treating illness. It's about making healthy lifestyles a lifelong commitment for people, providing support for those who need it, and changing the circumstances that cause so much harm."

Manulife Financial has committed $250,000 of the money to the Canadian Mental Health Association's Nova Scotia Division for a prevention program for children and a peer support program for youth.

"Mental Health affects us all one way or another. Between 15 percent and 25 per cent of our children and youth suffer at least one mental health problem or illness. Fear, embarrassment, peer pressure and stigma are all barriers to children and youth talking about mental health or asking for help," said Charles Bruce, CMHA Nova Scotia's chair. "Manulife's investment will go a long way towards teaching children and youth about mental illness and how to talk about it with their friends, siblings and families in a way that reduces stigma."

Manulife also announced that the other $250,000 contribution will go to the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia for the construction of residences for patients at the Nova Scotia Hospital who are making a transition back into the community.

"When you consider the cost of supporting someone with serious mental illness in the hospital is $170,000 a year, compared to the $35,000 it costs to support that same person in the community, Manulife's investment in the residences makes good financial sense," said Robert Hunt, the Foundation's chair. "Manulife's investment is an excellent start towards our Foundation's $2 million fundraising goal in order to make these residences a reality for Nova Scotians recovering from a mental illness."

Mental illness is the leading cause of employee disability in the workplace, affecting both absenteeism and productivity. More than 30 per cent of Manulife Financial's long-term disability claims administered on behalf of clients are related to mental illness. Industry studies estimate that mental illness costs the Canadian economy more than $51 billion a year in lost productivity, direct medical costs and reductions in health-related quality of life.

Media contacts:

Manulife Financial
Tom Nunn
(519) 594-8578

Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia
Catherine Kieran
(902) 464-5994/233-3298;

Canadian Mental Health Association - Nova Scotia Division
Carol Tooton

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Capital Health - Mental Health Services Satisfaction Survey 2007

To view this document, click here.

From the Preamble:
The Mental Health Services Satisfaction Survey was distributed within Capital Health between November 1st and 30th, 2007. This is the third year the survey has been distributed to people who utilize Mental Health Services within Capital Health.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Quote for Today

"According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, roughly 50% of individuals with personality disorders are affected by substance abuse, and 37% of alcohol abusers suffer from some form of mental illness. Individuals with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are four or five times more likely, respectively, to suffer from substance abuse than the general population."


For help, visit:

Schizophrenia & Substance Use

Addiction Services (Nova Scotia)

Alcoholics Anonymous (Nova Scotia)

Narcotics Anonymous (Nova Scotia)

Some tested Tasers fire stronger current than company says: CBC/Radio-Canada probe

An article posted December 4th on
Some Tasers deliver a higher level of electricity than the manufacturer promises, reveals a series of tests on 41 stun guns that was commissioned by CBC News and Radio-Canada.

The abnormal X26 model Tasers were manufactured before 2005, prompting some scientists to suggest police should stop using any older versions of the stun guns until they can be tested.

Of the 41 Tasers tested, four delivered significantly more current than Taser International says is possible. In some cases, the current was up to 50 per cent stronger than specified on the devices.
To read the entire article, click here.

The photograph shows three of the X26 Tasers tested by U.S.-based lab National Technical Systems as part of a CBC/Radio-Canada investigation into the devices. (Photograph courtesy of

Monday, December 1, 2008

New drug for schizophrenia offers relief from weight gain

Posted on December 1st by
An alternative antipsychotic drug which causes less weight gain than older treatments has been funded for those with schizophrenic disorders by New Zealand’s drug buying agency Pharmac.

Patients would be able to get the drug, amisulpride (Solian) [molecular structure illustrated], from today, which has been funded without restrictions.

Pharmac’s medical director Peter Moodie said increasing the range of treatments [for schizophrenia] had benefits for a condition that was difficult to treat.

"Over recent years some of the older antipsychotic treatments have been discontinued and so increasing the choice of medicines is an advantage," he said.

He also confirmed amisulpride was less likely to cause weight gain than other antipsychotics.

The agreement also saw injection and suppository formulations of the antinausea treatment prochlorperazine (Stemetil) becoming fully funded.

Antipsychotic drugs cost Pharmac more than $60 million a year, one of the agency’s highest expenditure groups.