Drug Compliance a Major Issue for Psych Patients

priority-mental-healthAntidepressants and antipsychotics can help mental health patients return their lives to some semblance of normalcy. However, the positive effects of these drugs can be negated if patients decide to stop taking their meds. Patients may feel so much better on medication that they eventually decide they no longer need treatment. They may forget, as patients on other types of medication do, to take their meds. They may also have difficulty dealing with the unpleasant or uncomfortable side effects of their psychiatric medications. Antipsychotics can produce side effects such as dizziness, restlessness, rapid heartbeat, and tremors. Antidepressants can cause drowsiness, insomnia, dry mouth, and constipation.

Often, when mental health patients stop taking their medication, their symptoms return and they fall back into the same self-destructive behaviors that prompted treatment in the first place. Medication non-adherence can lead to escalating medical costs if patients are readmitted to the hospital. Patients may lapse into depression or mania, alienate their loved ones with impulsive behavior, or engage in reckless or suicidal behavior. They may experience withdrawal symptoms such as dizziness or nausea if they quit their meds abruptly. In certain cases, noncompliance can cost lives. A recent study in the journal Psychiatry Research linked medication non-adherence in schizophrenics to an increased suicide risk.

Compliance is a vital part of managing mental health issues, considering the widespread use of psychiatric medications in the U.S. Antipsychotics were the top-selling class of drugs last year, and antidepressant use in the U.S. nearly doubled between 1996 and 2005. Companies such as Targacept, H. Lundbeck, Addex Pharmaceuticals, Corcept Therapeutics Incorporated, and Newron Pharmaceuticals are developing new psychiatric medications to compete with the old standards. Healthcare practitioners should educate patients on the importance of taking their psychiatric medications, how to manage or minimize side effects, and the consequences of noncompliance. Caregivers can also monitor patients, conducting pill counts and watching for signs that the patient has gone off his or her meds.

Finding the right medication is also central to improving compliance. If the drugs work poorly, the patient will be less inclined to take them. CNS Response attempts to match treatment-resistant patients with the medications that are most likely to be effective. The company takes a digital measurement of the patient’s brain physiology and compares it to a database of medication trials to determine how a patient will respond to specific medications.

Patient education, new treatments and better drug matching hold promise for reducing noncompliance in psychiatric patients. What are some other ways to keep patients from backsliding?

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