MonthMay 2019

Reading of the Week: Many Medications, Better Outcomes? Paul Kurdyak on the New JAMA Psychiatry Paper Considering Antipsychotics and Schizophrenia

From a Contributing Editor

For individuals with schizophrenia who are failed by trials of single antipsychotics, what’s next?

This week, we discuss a paper that addresses a treatment controversy. Antipsychotic polypharmacy (the use of more than one antipsychotic) is generally discouraged because the efficacy evidence is weak, and there is risk of increasing adverse events and effects with the addition of a second antipsychotic. Choosing Wisely is an initiative that seeks to advance a national dialogue on avoiding unnecessary medical tests, treatments and procedures; among their psychiatric recommendations is to avoid the use of multiple antipsychotics. The American Psychiatric Association contributed this to the Choosing Wisely initiative:

Research shows that use of two or more antipsychotic medications occurs in 4 to 35% of outpatients and 30 to 50% of inpatients. However, evidence for the efficacy and safety of using multiple antipsychotic medications is limited, and risk for drug interactions, noncompliance and medication errors is increased. Generally, the use of two or more antipsychotic medications concurrently should be avoided except in cases of three failed trials of monotherapy, which included one failed trial of Clozapine where possible, or where a second antipsychotic medication is added with a plan to cross-taper to monotherapy.

 This is where this week’s selection comes in. The study, “Association of Antipsychotic Polypharmacy vs Monotherapy With Psychiatric Rehospitalization Among Adults With Schizophrenia,” is from Finland by Karolinska Institutet’s Jari Tiihonen and his colleagues. This paper uses Finnish population-based health administrative data to evaluate the association between antipsychotic polypharmacy and psychiatric hospitalization. They conclude: “These results indicate that rational antipsychotic polypharmacy seems to be feasible by using 2 particular antipsychotics with different types of receptor profiles.”

kakslauttanen_aurora_augustFinland: home to big Northern Lights (and big databases)

In this Reading, we consider this paper and wonder if it should change our prescribing choices.

Paul Kurdyak, MD, PhD, FRCPC

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Open for Business: Chatbots, E-therapies, and the Future of Psychiatry

While not offering a solution for every patient in every circumstance, digital psychiatry may even be attractive to a subset of patients who would prefer a digital interaction to a human one, whether for financial and other pragmatic considerations (e.g., a single parent of 3 children, on public assistance, for whom getting to an office appointment is a major logistical problem and even financial hardship) or for more psychological and interpersonal reasons (e.g., someone with autism spectrum disorder for whom the lack of human connection with a chatbot may be helpful).

I’ve just edited an “in review” series for The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry considering digital psychiatry.

With my colleague Dr. David Goldbloom, I’ve co-written an editorial to open the series.

cpaaugcover2017

You can find our paper (which is open access) here:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0706743719850057

The Andersson et al. paper is here:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0706743719839381

The Vaidyam et al. paper is here:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0706743719828977

Reading of the Week: Can Social Connectedness Prevent Suicides? The New JAMA Psychiatry Paper on Caring Contacts in the Military

From the Editor

Social disconnectedness contributes to suicide. Past studies have tried to connect with people at risk, using simple tools like postcards.

This week, we look at a JAMA Psychiatry paper. The University of Washington’s Katherine Anne Comtois and her co-authors use a text message-based intervention (Caring Contacts) to try to reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviours in active military personal. They find: “Although the primary hypotheses were not supported, Caring Contacts was found to be a simple, scalable intervention that may be effective in reducing the occurrence of suicide ideation and attempts.”

Military man texts using smart phone in the city Suicide prevention by text: clever? Too clever?

We consider the paper and two editorials. We also consider a New York Times essay that asks: “If suicide is preventable, why are so many people dying from it?”

DG

 

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Reading of the Week: Ramadan and Mental Health Care – What are the Clinical Considerations?

From the Editor

For some patients, it carries deeply religious meaning. For others, it will be a time for reflection. And for us clinicians, it must be thought of in terms of patients’ management.

As our Muslim patients begin Ramadan, there are implications for care. About 80% of Muslims in North America will fast. Should medication times change? Would sleep be disrupted? Are patients on lithium at greater risk of toxicity? In a new paper, Dr. Zainab Furqan – a resident in the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry – joins co-authors from three countries in considering Ramadan and care. They note that several groups are exempt from fasting but “many people who are exempt from fasting due to illness choose to fast during this month due to the spiritual significance of Ramadan for Muslim communities.”

They write: “It is important for clinicians not to undermine the importance of this spiritual practice for their patients.”

newmoon11A small moon and big challenges for care?

In this week’s Reading, we consider their new paper.

And an invitation: the Reading of the Week series invites guest contributions. If this is of interest, please let me know.

DG

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Reading of the Week: How Do University Students Use Cannabis? Also, the Life and Legacy of Richard Green, and Scott Gottlieb on E-Cigs

From the Editor

I don’t quite remember when I changed my interview questions, but at some point – more than a decade ago – I stopped assuming that if I asked about street drugs, patients would tell me about cannabis. Long before legalization, people stopped seeing cannabis as illicit. Today, not only is cannabis legal for recreational use, many see it as a drug to be taken for their health.

In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper, the authors write about cannabis use for medicinal purposes among Canadian university students. Drawing on a survey, they find wide use – but not exactly the use that follows the guidelines.

We also consider two other pieces: an obituary for Dr. Richard Green, a prominent psychiatrist who challenged the DSM’s inclusion of homosexuality, and an interview with Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the outgoing FDA Commissioner, who worries about e-cigarettes.

508221091 Use – but medicinal use?

Enjoy these selections.

And an invitation: the Reading of the Week series invites guest contributions. If this is of interest to you, please let me know.

DG

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