Societal perceptions of schizophrenia are often sensationalized and shrouded in stigmas that can lead to misconceptions and the spread of inaccurate information both outside and within the community. These negative or false beliefs can come from media, cultural attitudes, and institutional bias (employers, police, and even the medical community), impacting patients' treatment journeys and potentially keeping them from optimizing their disease management.
Among patients with schizophrenia, caregivers, and health care providers, a common misconception is that use of long-acting injectable antipsychotics (LAIs) is only appropriate for severe cases. However, LAIs may be suitable for a variety of patients and even used in early treatment to allow for improved adherence – the patient receiving the medication as prescribed – and quality of life. For this reason, they’re typically recommended to patients who prefer LAIs or who may struggle to adhere to a daily oral regimen.
In addition, relapse continues to be an ongoing and complex challenge faced by many schizophrenia patients, with rates estimated to be between 50-92% globally. LAIs help to maintain stable blood levels and have been shown to reduce the risk of relapse. Despite the proven effectiveness, LAIs are only used as first-line treatment options in the U.S. about 4% of the time.
It’s important to clarify some of the other common misconceptions of LAIs, including:
Misconception #1: Treatment cost is out of reach
A multitude of public and private insurance plans can help cover the cost of LAI antipsychotics, and in some cases the drug manufacturer may also provide assistance.
Misconception #2: Patients prefer oral treatment
In the health care community, oral medication is typically the standard first choice treatment of schizophrenia, especially for first-episode patients, due to the assumption that patients prefer it. However, there are examples of schizophrenia patients and their relatives with favorable perception of LAIs. Therefore, it’s important for health care providers to offer injectable LAIs as an option to their patients early in their treatment journey, which allows patients to discuss benefits and risks of different treatment options with their doctors to find the one most appropriate for them.
Misconception #3: Treatment with LAIs is a punishment
A psychotic episode can be a traumatic experience that may be further compounded by a need for hospitalization, which could leave patients ambivalent about receiving medications involuntarily. Historically, this has created a negative perception of injectable treatments, but attitudes may change during disease relapse and remission periods. Today’s LAIs offer treatment options for patients and doctors that may help meet the patient’s needs or preferences.
Raising awareness of these misconceptions has the potential to help patients and caregivers consider the most appropriate treatment option for them. Should any person believe LAIs may be beneficial to their treatment journey, they are encouraged to start a conversation with their doctor.
Eric Hughes, M.D., Ph.D., is the executive vice president of global research and development and chief medical officer at Teva Pharmaceuticals.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog solely belong to the author, and external content does not necessarily reflect the views of Mental Health America.