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Schizophrenics 'not denied' vital drugs

PUBLISHED: 11:23 04 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:08 03 March 2010

SCHIZOPHRENICS in Suffolk have full access to the choice of specialist drugs, a county health chief has said following reports that thousands of people across the country are being denied the opportunity to receive the drugs they need.

SCHIZOPHRENICS in Suffolk have full access to the choice of specialist drugs, a county health chief has said following reports that thousands of people across the country are being denied the opportunity to receive the drugs they need.

Poor funds among primary care trusts are being blamed but in Suffolk, Dr John Darley, medical director of the Local Health Partnership gave assurances that no-one in the county will find a problem getting the drugs they need if they are the right drugs for them.

The drugs in the spotlight are atypical anti-psychotic drugs that are recommended for newly diagnosed schizophrenics and the specialist medicine clozapine for those with treatment resistant schizophrenia.

In June this year, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended that sufferers should receive these drugs and should also be offered a wide choice of drugs suitable for them.

But the survey, commissioned by the charity, 'Rethink severe mental illness', suggested many people are still being denied the choice of new types of medicines.

Rethink is the operating name for the National Schizophrenic Fellowship.

However in Suffolk Dr Darley said that there were no problems in getting the medicines.

He said: "The main concern would be whether the drugs were right for them.

"Initially patients are seen by psychiatrists and then referred to a GP to provide medication.

"The drugs can then be issued."

Although many of the PCT's across the county have admitted they are in financial trouble and some of that is caused by the cost of drugs, Dr Darley said these drugs were not causing a problem.

Paul Farmer, director of public affairs for Rethink, called for the Government to pledge more money so the NICE recommendations could be implemented as soon as possible.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said there was already a legal requirement that the NHS had three months, from when guidance was published, to provide funding so clinical decisions can made by doctors involving Nice recommended treatments or drugs.

She said: "It is also part of the Commission for Health Improvement's responsibility to look at the implementation of Nice guidance,'

"The whole purpose of Nice is to end the postcode lottery of NHS prescribing and make sure NHS patients get access the most effective drugs and treatments, wherever they happen to live.'

* Have you encountered problems in getting the medication you need? Call the Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 282257.

FACTFILE:

Schizophrenia is a mental illness. The first acute episode can be a devastating experience, particularly as both the person experiencing the illness and those close to him will be unprepared.

About one in a hundred people world-wide experience at least one such episode at some time during their lives, although the highest incidence is in the late teens and early 20's.

In about one quarter of cases there is eventually a full recovery. The majority will have long periods of good functioning, with occasional problems.

During what is sometimes referred to as "an acute episode" the mental processes of experiencing and thinking become distorted.

When severe this can lead to intense panic, anger, depression, elation or over activity, perhaps punctuated by periods of withdrawal.

One common misconception is that schizophrenia is the result of 'split personality'. In fact 'multiple personality', the correct term, is very rare and has nothing to do with schizophrenia.

The mistake comes from the fact that the name 'schizophrenia' was coined from two Greek words meaning 'split' and 'mind'. It was intended to represent the fact that processes of thought, feeling and intention, guiding the person's actions, no longer interact to form a coherent whole.

Information Source – The National Schizophrenic Fellowship

www.nsf.org.uk

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