Claims schizophrenia drugs are 'cutting lives short'

14/11/12

One of the largest reviews into care for people with schizophrenia says there are "catastrophic" failings with treatments.

The Schizophrenia Commission says although current antipsychotic drugs can help control symptoms they're are cutting some patients lives short by as much as 20 years.

I think the medication has helped control my condition over the past couple of years but at the same time I think the drugs need to be looked at and updated
Carly Townsend

The year long independent inquiry says medicines haven't been improved for decades, with doctors not monitoring those on them properly.

The report, by a group of leading mental health experts, found this can lead to weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems.

More than 220,000 people in England suffer with schizophrenia.

You can find out more about schizophrenia on the Radio 1 website

'Side-effects'

Carly Townsend, 25, from Birmingham first started to hear voices when she was 14.

Carly
Image caption Carly Townsend from Birmingham says her medication makes her feel ill

She said: "The only time you ever see someone hearing voices is maybe in the movies when they'd be a serial killer."

She was diagnosed with psychosis, a symptom of schizophrenia.

"One medication I was put on changed the way my heart was beating," she said.

"I think the medication has helped control my condition over the past couple of years but at the same time I think the drugs need to be looked at and updated."

The charity, Rethink Mental Illness, which helped to set up the inquiry, says 17 to 23-year-olds are most likely to develop conditions like schizophrenia.

Treatments

Jane Hughes is from the charity and said: "We're not saying that with the right treatment you're going to be cured.

"But you can get a balance right so the symptoms you're experiencing become easier to live with without absolutely appalling unacceptable side-effects."

Schizophrenia: Key facts

    • Schizophrenia affects thinking, feeling and behaviour and causes people to have abnormal experiences
    • It is caused by a combination of factors. Genes, perhaps slight brain damage at birth or during pregnancy, childhood abuse
    • Street drugs (ecstasy, LSD, amphetamines and crack) seem to trigger it. Stress and family tensions make it worse

Clare Gill, 41, is from Weybridge and has been on psychiatric medication for more than 20 years.

She says recently doctors have found the right drugs for her, but in the past, other tablets triggered a condition similar to arthritis.

She said: "I was in constant pain in all my joints. I couldn't go up the stairs or do anything."

She says her family paid for her to see a private specialist who confirmed her antipsychotic treatments were to blame.

The charity Rethink Mental Illness says people who've been prescribed antipsychotics shouldn't stop taking the drugs, but should go to their doctor and ask for more advice if they're concerned.

The Health Minister admits people are being let down but the Department of Health says it does have a plan to improve care and reduce premature deaths in people with serious mental illness.

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