Why this story matters:
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that affects only 1% of the population, but its symptoms and effects can be severe. The distortions in thinking that come with the disease can lead to hallucinations and abnormal behaviour that can disturb others and, more importantly, severely impact a sufferer’s life.
That is why medication is so crucial to ensure a good quality of life for both patients and those around them. In spite of this need, since 2010 Portugal has stopped fully subsidizing long-acting injectable antipsychotics such as Fluanxol and Xeplion, which have proved to be most effective in reducing schizophrenia symptoms.
This means that patients will now have to pay for 5% or 10% of the medication -- a sum that may reach around 50€ per injection.
Many of these patients don’t hold a steady job and subsist on meagre state pensions. As if this wasn’t enough, schizophrenia patients often don’t recognize that they have a severe mental health problem and refuse medication. The fact that they have to pay such a high cost per month leads many to refuse treatment entirely.
Details from the story:
- Long-acting injectable antipsychotics have less side effects, unlike the old and cheaper medication that can make patients slow and unable to function.
- Psychiatrists are worried about the situation, speaking out for their patients who abandon the medication. The Portuguese Medical Association claims this kind of medication should be entirely subsidized, since these patients have “terrible levels in therapeutic compliance” and are not able to “come together to protest” about the situation.
- João Marques Teixeira, chairman of the Portuguese Psychiatry and Mental Health Society, underlined the stigma and economic challenges the families of these patients face and criticized the fact that other mental health patients are able to have 100% subsidized medication while schizophrenics are not.
- The Portuguese National Authority of Medicines (INFARMED) states that there are no plans to alter the subsidizing regime.