National Alliance on Mental Illness
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October 7, 2006

New vs. Old Medications

A British study published in the current issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, comparing old and new antipsychotic medications, has two major implications for federal and state policies.

The first involves the nation’s science agenda. The second involves individual access to the right medications for treatment under Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs—and is expected to fuel ongoing federal and state political battles.

In April 2006, Jeffery Lieberman, M.D., Chairman of the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry—who heads a series of studies on schizophrenia funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which has made findings similar to those of the British study—warned:

"The most important message of the results is the need for better treatments. Until we have those new treatments, given the substantial limitations of current medications and the diversity of patient response, clinicians need a broad range of treatment options, not restrictions on choices."

In a press release responding to the new study, NAMI Medical Director Ken Duckworth, M.D., called for even greater, long-term, independent, comprehensive studies modeled after the Framingham Heart Study. (FHS)

"We need to track the progress of a community of individuals over their life courses, looking at a range of factors and real-world conditions," he said.

Directed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the FHS is a landmark study begun in 1948 that continues today. Approximately 12,000 residents of Framingham, Massachusetts originally were enrolled in a study designed to gather medical data, and more recently DNA samples. New generations of participants were added in 1971 and 2002. The study has helped to identify risk factors and related concerns, contributing to improvements in treatment.

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