(Photo courtesy © Can Stock Photo Inc. / webking)

New Drug Reduces Risk For Schizophrenia Relapse

A first-of-its-kind treatment is giving people with schizophrenia a better quality of life while reducing the chance for a relapse.

Recently approved by Health Canada, INVEGA TRINZA is taken only four times a year — currently offering the longest time between doses. Previously it was given once every month.

The disorder affects about 1% of the Canadian population or 300,000 people. It causes delusions, hallucinations, social withdrawal and disturbed thinking.

Dr. Ranjith Chandrasena, chief of psychiatry and chief of medical staff at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, has been involved with the research and surveyed local patients for the study.

He says extending the length of time between doses is a significant advancement.

“Most of the patients can lead a relatively normal life,” says Chandrasena. “They can live independently, they can engage in relationships, they can go to work and they can have a normal life.”

With this new medication, a sense of normalcy continues even if the user stops taking it. They wouldn’t start to relapse for another 390 days, a huge step up from the current drug.

It’s an injection instead of oral medicine, which doctors say makes it less likely for a relapse because they’re more inclined to take it. Another factor, injections are given at a physician’s office while the oral medication is taken at home.

Many who take the oral medication and stop relapse within a week and are admitted to hospital a short time after.

“Every time there is a relapse the brain cells have tiny branches and when you have this illness they don’t branch out and every time you have a relapse, that process gets affected and they don’t recovery fully,” says Chandrasena.

With the proper treatment he says schizophrenia doesn’t have to be debilitating. Some of his patients have achieved university degrees, others went on to become doctors.

“The future, if treated well, treated early and they maintain on treatment, is promising,” he says.

Officials expect the medication to be ready in two or three months.