Adults with schizophrenia and caregivers of adults with schizophrenia are frustrated with medications to treat the condition because the side effects are hard to deal with, according to a survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Otsuka America Pharmaeutical, Inc. and Lundbeck.
The Living with Schizophrenia survey involved 120 adults (ages 18+) with schizophrenia, 300 unpaid caregivers of adults with schizophrenia, and 151 psychiatrists who treat adults with schizophrenia.
“Schizophrenia is a serious, progressive disease that has a significant impact on patients and caregivers. When it comes to treating it, both groups have been making concessions in an effort to help themselves or a loved one,” said Dr. Rebecca Roma, Medical Director of Community Treatment Teams, Mercy Behavioral Health. “Similarly, psychiatrists are committed to their patients with schizophrenia and creating the most optimal treatment regimen to help set up patients for success. In order to do so, medication options that achieve a balance of efficacy with safety and great tolerability are needed.”
Seventy percent of adults with schizophrenia who have ever taken medication to treat their condition, and 74 percent of caregivers whose loved one has ever taken schizophrenia medications reported that when balancing symptom management with side effects, the priority was managing symptoms. However, more than half of schizophrenia patients and half of their caregivers say they the side effects can be intolerable. A large majority of psychiatrists surveyed – 90 percent – reported being frustrated with the side effects of the available schizophrenia medications.
The psychiatrists surveyed said the biggest barrier to successful treatment of schizophrenia was compliance, and they believe the top three reasons why patients discontinue treatment or do not take it as prescribed is they believe they no longer need the drugs, they forget to take them, and they cannot tolerate the side effects.
Schizophrenia drugs include the widely prescribed Risperdal, known generically as risperidone. The drug is also used to treat bipolar disorder and irritability with autism. It is often prescribed off-label to treat other conditions including ADHD and ADD. Risperdal is used to treat both adults and children with these conditions.
Risperdal side effects can be especially damning for children. The drug has been linked to gynecomastia, a condition in which boys and young men grow female breasts. Gynecomastia can be emotionally and physically painful. Treatment includes surgeries such as liposuction and mastectomy. Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals currently faces numerous lawsuits alleging the company knew the drug could cause boys to develop large breasts but refused to warn doctors or patients of this risk.