New drugs for schizophrenia enable more effective treatment


New medications to treat schizophrenia are resulting in fewer and less severe side-effects, a leading US psychiatrist has told a medical conference in Dublin. Dr David Pickar, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Health Sciences, Maryland, said the new generation of medicines was enabling more effective treatments of all stages of the illness.

Addressing the St John of God/ Eli Lilly conference on schizophrenia (which affects one in every 100 people during their lifetime), Prof Pickar said new drugs were resulting in less social withdrawal, introversion and depression, invariably associated with older medicines.

They were also leading to a lessening of delusions and hallucinations, and improved movement including less tremor, reduced impaired gait and better balance, he said. Schizophrenia is a term for a group of psychotic illnesses, manifested in a chemical imbalance which causes people to experience a disturbance in their normal thoughts and feelings, and may lead to unusual behaviour.

Early recognition and treatment of schizophrenia have significant implications for the future psychiatric and social well-being of the patient, according to Prof Patrick McGorry of the University of Melbourne.

The average delay between the beginning of psychotic symptoms and treatment is about one year. "Everybody who works with or is involved with young people, such as parents, priests and educators, should watch out for consistent changes in behaviour and functioning," he said.

When doctors see young people who may be exhibiting changes in behaviour, they should continue to see them regularly and monitor them closely for emergence of psychosis, Prof McGorry said.

"This helps to reduce the delay before a referral to the appropriate service is made and treatment is started."