Autumn Gold and Gold Standard in Finland:
© 2012 Am Ang Zhang
An extract from The Cockroach Catcher:
……...Martina was already at the adolescent inpatient unit when I arrived. She was supposed to be schizophrenic. The family were refugees from Sudan. They were a small Sect of Catholics that were said to be persecuted.
Martina was not very communicative but her records and observations by her outpatient psychiatrist indicated that the diagnosis was robust enough. However, after over a year in hospital she was not improving and we had tried the newer antipsychotic without making much headway.
There was one thing left to do – to put her on Clozapine.
I was once at one of these big drug firm meetings when all the big boys on the newer antipsychotics were there.
Having filled my plate from the delicious buffet, I sat next to two nicely clad representatives.
“So you ladies are from Novartis?” I did my usual stunt.
“How did you work that one out?”
“Well, you two have the best designer outfits and I guessed you must be from the makers of Clozapine.”
They were there to see what the opposition might come up with but as far as I was concerned no other pharmaceutical would touch them for decades.
After today’s Lancet publication they might not need to worry at all!
The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 13 July 200911-year follow-up of mortality in patients with schizophrenia: a population-based cohort study (FIN11 study) Jari Tiihonen et al.
According to Reuters:
…………An analysis of 10 years' records for 67,000 patients in Finland found that, compared to treatment with the first-generation drug perphenazine, the risk of early death for patients on clozapine was reduced by 26 percent.
By contrast, mortality risk was 41 percent higher for those on Seroquel, known chemically as quetiapine; 34 percent higher with Johnson & Johnson's Risperdal, or resperidone; and 13 percent higher with Eli Lilly's Zyprexa, or olanzapine.
"We know that clozapine has the highest efficacy of all the antipsychotics and it is now clear, after all, that it is not that risky or dangerous a treatment," study leader Jari Tiihonen of the University of Kuopio said in a telephone interview.
"We should consider whether clozapine should be used as a first-line treatment option."Tiihonen estimates clozapine is given to around one fifth of Finnish schizophrenia patients, but less than 5 percent in the United States.Clozapine's side effects include agranulocytosis, a potentially fatal decline in white blood cells, and current rules stipulate the drug can only be used after two unsuccessful trials with other antipsychotics.Tiihonen and colleagues wrote in the Lancet medical journal that these restrictions should be reassessed in the light of their findings, since not using the drug may have caused thousands of premature deaths worldwide.
According to AP:
James MacCabe, a consultant psychiatrist at the National Psychosis Unit at South London and Maudsley Hospital, called the research "striking and shocking." He was not linked to the study.
"There is now a case to be made for revising the guidelines to make clozapine available to a much larger proportion of patients," he said.
Tiihonen and colleagues found that even though the use of anti-psychotic medications has jumped in the last decade, people with schizophrenia in Finland still die about two decades earlier than other people.
Tiihonen said the pharmaceutical industry is partly to blame for why clozapine has often been overlooked. "Clozapine's patent expired long ago, so there's no big money to be made from marketing it," he said.
Alaska Zyprexa: DOJ at last.
Alaska, Good Friday Earthquake and Zyprexa
Alaska Zyprexa: Follow Up
Bipolar and ADHD: Boys and Breasts
Humber Mental Health Teaching NHS Trust: Learning From The Past.