FDA Approves Aristada As Schizophrenia Treatment; How It Will Help Manage The Mental Health Disorder

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Aristada is administered by a health care professional every four to six weeks using an injection in the arm or the buttocks. Natia Koiava CC BY-SA 2.0

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration approved Aristada (aripiprazole lauroxil) extended release injection for the treatment of adults with schizophrenia. The approval stands as a major step forward in the treatment of this severe, debilitating mental health condition, but it takes more than just medication to make sure schizophrenia patients are happy and healthy.

According to the FDA press release, Aristada is administered by a health care professional every four to six weeks using an injection in the arm or the buttocks. A 12-week clinical trial featuring 622 participants demonstrated the drug’s effectiveness in maintaining the treatment of patients with acute schizophrenia, when used alongside the antipsychotic Abilify (aripiprazole), the FDA reported. Like other antipsychotic drugs, Aristada comes with an increased risk of death, but the most common side effect observed in the trial was akathisia, or the urge to move constantly. Aristada is not approved for use in patients with dementia-related psychosis.

Schizophrenia is a chronic, often disabling mental health condition that causes patients to hear voices, believe others are reading their mouths or controlling their thoughts. Patients with schizophrenia often become extremely suspicious and withdrawn, and may suffer from emotional flatness. Although it is not exactly clear what causes the condition, research has suggested that both genetic and environmental factors may play a role.

Early treatment is necessary, because when left alone, schizophrenia can put patients at risk for brain volume loss. Although antipsychotic medications play an important role in controlling schizophrenia symptoms, they are only one part of the advised treatment regime.

According to Susan Gingerich, MSW, a clinician based in Philadelphia, “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,” PsychCentral reported. One of the best ways to take an active role in your schizophrenia treatment is to attend psychosocial interventions. According to the National Institutes of Health, these treatments help patients learn how to deal with everyday challenges caused by their illness, such as communication, work, and forming and keeping relationships. According to the NIH, individuals who receive psychosocial treatments are more likely to keep taking their medications and less likely to be hospitalized for their illness.

In addition to psychosocial therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is also used to help relieve some of the hallucinations and delusions associated with schizophrenia when medication fails. During CBT, a therapist will teach patients to test the reality of their perceptions and learn ways to ignore hallucinations and voices. A sense of community and support is also important in treating schizophrenia, which is why self-help groups can play such an integral role in treating schizophrenia. These groups are open to both patients and their families, and can help relieve much of the isolation and loneliness associated with the condition.

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