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article imageSchizophrenia Patients Suffer Every Year Due To NHS Fatal Drug

By Michelle Duffy     Jul 1, 2009 in Health
The UK Times recently reported on the staggering number of patients suffering from schizophrenia who die each year due to the negligence of the NHS. A "last resort" drug for patients has been warned now of its deadly side effects.
The numbers of schizophrenia patients who die each year due to this drug makes shocking reading. The drug called clozapine, given to these patients has been titled in the past as being the "last resort" drug to tame the effects and symptoms of the mental illness. Yet despite the treatment to gives to calm the illness, it can also boost the chances of the patient suffering a stroke or a heart attack. Yet this may not be completely the fault of the drug itself. If perhaps more frequent monitoring of the drug and it's dosage for each patient then the numbers suffering might not be quiet so many.
The regular monitoring would initially keep an eye on irregularities in the blood which can be fatal. There were, at the time, no other tests carried out to monitor other health concerns in connection with the drug.
Alison Cobb, a senior policy officer at UK mental health organisation, Mind, told The Times that there had always been certain and more enhanced health concerns with schizophrenia patients. She said,
“There are health risks and side-effects associated with all anti-psychotic medications but it is chilling to see this number of deaths associated with clozapine and the month-on-month increases. The figures refer to heart disease, strokes, cancer and other long-term health problems that cannot be explained simply by suicides or an increased overall risk of death...."
However, author of the study at the British Journal of Psychiatry, David Taylor said in defence of the drug,
“Most of the deaths reported could not be said to be a result of clozapine treatment; none could be definitively linked to its use. Clozapine, it is widely agreed, is under-used in this country and in practice its use is delayed for much longer than NICE currently recommend. The safety of clozapine has been continuously monitored since its launch in 1990. In fact, no other drug has been as closely monitored. Close and intensive physical monitoring should be mandatory for all people with severe mental illness, regardless of treatment.”
Since March this year, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellent (or NICE) had released official guidelines warning of the side effects of the drug which is used to treat hallucinations and delusions. When around 1 in every 100 people in the UK suffers with schizophrenia, the man aim of the newly published guidelines will be primarily for the encouragement of new patients to "try out" other drugs first before using the severe clozapine.
It is thought that around 55 patients die each year with hundreds more suffering strong side effects after being prescribed the drug. It is also thought that the drug can be strongly linked to around 950 deaths since 1990. Yet despite its help in the treatment of schizophrenia, the "Yellow Card reporting scheme" (MHRA) whose job it is, is to watch over the side effects of such drugs, say that around 11,600 reactions have been notified and clearly linked to clozapine in the last near 20 years.
The drug is branded under other drug names such as Clozaril, Denzapine and Zaponex. In the UK alone last year, 7,000 prescriptions for the drug were written.
GP's have now been told to monitor the general well being of the patient at least once as year as many of the prescriptions for the drug are usually repeated
More about Schizophrenia, NHS, Drug