Schizophrenia is a severe and debilitating mental illness that affects more than 21 million people worldwide according to the World Health Organization (WHO), including 2.4 million American adults. One in two adults who have it receive no care, but now it's very possible that statistic is poised to change favorably. The Food And Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Aristada, a drug developed by Dublin-based pharmaceutical Alkermes.
Aristada (Aripiprazole lauroxil) is the injectable version of schizophrenia medication Abilify, a daily oral treatment created by Japanese firm Otsuka Pharmaceuticals and distributed by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. in the United States. Although it's a major step forward for schizophrenia treatment, it's not an end-all-be-all solution. The disease is marked by serious symptoms like hallucinations, depression, social withdrawal and disorganized thinking — not all of which can simply be eliminated by a drug.
Susan Gingerich, MSW, a clinician based in Philadelphia with more than 30 years of experience in schizophrenia treatment, told Psych Central, "The most effective way to treat the illness is for the person to learn about the disorder and its symptoms, and to take an active role in their treatment." That involves a significant effort on the part of the sick person to see counseling and external support systems to help them along a challenging path.
Still, as Aristada is being promoted as the first atypical antipsychotic drug with once-a-month and six-week dosing options, its approval by the FDA can only be viewed as a positive for those afflicted by schizophrenia and their families.
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