Friday, July 21, 2017

Psych News PsychoPharm Reports on Why FDA Took Steps To Encourage Removal of Opana ER From Market

When Endo Pharmaceuticals earlier this month announced that the company was pulling its opioid analgesic Opana ER (oxymorphone hydrochloride extended release) from the market, it marked the end of the road for a reformulated medication whose abuse by injection has been associated with multiple disease outbreaks.

“We are facing an opioid epidemic—a public health crisis, and we must take all necessary steps to reduce the scope of opioid misuse and abuse,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said in a press release announcing the agency’s formal request in June that Endo stop selling the medication. The action by the FDA was “the first time the agency has taken steps to remove a currently marketed opioid pain medication from sale due to the public health consequences of abuse,” the release stated.

While other opioids such as morphine and oxycodone are also abused, an article appearing today in Psychiatric News PsychoPharm describes how the Opana ER tablet is somewhat unusual: contributing to some of its deadly consequences are the inactive ingredients.

The older version of Opana ER tablet, which had been on the market from 2006 to 2011, was a simple formulation that released a small and steady amount of oxymorphone over 12 hours to maintain continuous pain relief. In 2012, after reports of people abusing the medication by crushing the tablet and snorting the powder, Endo replaced the original Opana ER tablet with a new formulation that contained a polymer known as polyethylene oxide (PEO) to make the tablet difficult to crush. If mixed with water, the tablet turns into a gel-like substance. The company had hoped to win the FDA’s “abuse-deterrent” label for this formulation, but the agency rejected the request, noting that it did not reach the standard for abuse deterrence.

Reformulated Opana ER deterred snorting, but individuals soon discovered that it was easier to “melt” and dissolve the tablet with heat. The liquid could be injected intravenously to produce the desired effect—a practice that led to more dangerous outcomes than snorting the tablets, Psychiatric News PsychoPharm reports. The article describes outbreaks of HIV and hepatitis C, as well as cases of a serious blood disorder known as thrombotic microangiopathy that can be traced back to injection abuse of Opana ER.

For more information on oxymorphone, the FDA’s action, and a list of 10 opioid analgesic products that have received the designation by the FDA as being “abuse deterrent,” see the full article here.

Today’s issue of Psychiatric News PsychoPharm also includes information on when to recommend SAMe for depression, findings that suggest imipramine may benefit patients with multiple somatic disorders, and more.

(Image: iStock/Mordolff)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

‘Willingness’ May Predict How Well Patients With Severe OCD Respond to ERP Therapy

Willingness to experience unpleasant and unwanted thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensation during an exposure appears to improve exposure therapy outcomes among patients with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), according to an article published July 17 in Depression and Anxiety.

“Data indicated that individuals with higher willingness during ERP [exposure and response prevention] reported faster symptom reduction during residential treatment, even when controlling for length of stay, psychopharmacological intervention, depression, adherence, and rituals performed during ERP,” Adam M. Reid, Ph.D., of the OCD Institute for Children and Adolescents at McLean Hospital and colleagues wrote.

Reid and colleagues set out to explore why ERP—considered the gold-standard psychotherapeutic treatment for OCD—is not fully effective for more patients with OCD. ERP is considered effective for about 50% to 80% of adults with OCD.

Previous research by others on acceptance and commitment therapy suggested that willingness is a marker of acceptance and is associated with improved engagement in distressing tasks. Reid and colleagues decided this would be an important factor on which to focus for their ERP research.

For the current study, 288 adults seeking treatment at an intensive/residential treatment (IRT) program for OCD participated in 4 hours of ERP per day for six weeks. About 25% to 50% of the sessions were led by trained clinical residence counselors or practicum students, and the remainder were self-directed. During each coached exposure session, coaches asked patients to rate how willing they felt before and during the exposure, as well as how willing they would be to repeat the exposure in the future. Willingness was rated on a scale of 0 (not at all willing) to 100 (extremely willing). The 10-item Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) was used for assessing symptom severity.

Average Y-BOCS scores at baseline were 25.42, indicating that the average patient in the study had clinically severe OCD. After six weeks of ERP, OCD symptoms fell an average of 8.16 points on the Y-BOCS, resulting in an average reduction of 31% in symptoms. Higher willingness to engage in ERP was associated with more adherence, less ritualizing, and more habituation during ERP.

Reid and colleagues also asked patients to self-report their willingness to engage in ERP at three different time points: before ERP, immediately after, and for future exposures. Higher willingness at each time point was found to be associated with faster symptom reduction during six weeks of residential-level exposure therapy.

“Perhaps patients with higher willingness are more amenable to facing a higher number of novel stimuli and environments during exposure therapy,” the authors wrote. “[W]illingness may provide a clinical marker of exposure response that can be feasibly captured by clinicians in a naturalistic clinical setting.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Report Highlights Alternative Treatment Options for OCD.”

(Image: iStock/shironosov)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Brain Imaging Offers Clues About PTSD Patients Most Likely to Benefit From Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Brain imaging may be able to predict patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who are most likely to benefit from the trauma-focused psychotherapy known as prolonged exposure, according to a study published yesterday in AJP in Advance.

Prolonged exposure—which helps patients confront trauma memories and real-life situations that provoke symptoms—is known to be an effective treatment for PTSD, but many patients fail to respond to this therapy. Senior author Amit Etkin, M.D., Ph.D., of Stanford University School of Medicine and colleagues used functional MRI (fMRI) to examine brain activity in 66 patients with PTSD before prolonged exposure to see if there were functional differences between the brains of patients who responded to prolonged exposure therapy and those who did not.

The patients underwent fMRI while resting and while carrying out tasks meant to elicit emotional response and regulation when presented with a series of happy, fearful, or neutral facial images and negative or neutral photographs. The patients were then randomly assigned to immediate prolonged exposure treatment (nine to 12 90-minute prolonged exposure sessions held once or twice a week) or a waiting-list condition. Four weeks after the final treatment session or comparable waiting period, all participants completed a posttreatment clinical assessment.

Patients who received prolonged exposure therapy demonstrated a greater reduction in PTSD symptom scores than those assigned to the waiting list. Those with greater baseline dorsal prefrontal activation and less left amygdala activation during emotion reactivity tests showed larger reductions in symptom scores after treatment, the authors reported. Similarly, individuals with greater baseline ventromedial prefrontal/ventral striatal activation during implicit regulation of emotional conflict demonstrated larger symptom reductions after treatment.

According to Etkin and colleagues, the findings suggest that “an individual’s capacity to benefit from exposure therapy is gated by [the] degree of spontaneous prefrontal control over amygdalar threat detection signals during incidental processing of a fear-conveying stimulus and the brain’s capacity to reduce interference from an emotional cue in the environment.” 

“This study provides a solid footing for understanding mechanisms so we can start working toward matching people to the treatment most likely to work for them and develop novel therapeutics for directly targeting brain therapy,” said Etkin. “By grounding psychotherapy in brain mechanisms, we can also hopefully decrease stigma, an invisible barrier to care that is so prevalent in psychiatric disorders and prevents people from getting the care that would benefit them.”

In an accompanying paper in AJP, Etkin and colleagues describe how imaging also revealed changes in the frontopolar cortex (the front-most portion of the prefrontal cortex) of PTSD patients who received prolonged exposure.

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Brain Scans May Indicate Optimal Treatment for Depression.”

(Image: iStock/JohnnyGreig)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Digital Ads Offer Cost-Effective Strategy for Engaging Users About Early Psychosis

Using digital advertising is a successful and cost-effective strategy to engage individuals who are searching for mental health information online, reports a study published Monday in Psychiatric Services in Advance.

A team at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., employed Google AdWords—clickable ads that appear when online searches match selected keywords—to raise awareness about early psychosis and encourage people to contact their local intervention clinic. 

“Although advertisers have long used the Internet to target consumers directly beyond the capabilities of traditional media, limited efforts have focused specifically on applying available technology to target and identify help-seeking individuals in real time and refer them to appropriate resources,” Michael Birnbaum, M.D., and colleagues wrote. 

Birnbaum and colleagues selected more than 2,000 keywords across 15 psychosis-related themes. General terms such as “psychosis,” as well as more specific terms such as “hearing voices” and “mind control,” were included to target both individuals searching for information for themselves and persons searching on behalf of a loved one. They next created 154 ads consisting of a headline related to the user’s search, description line, and call to action. The ads linked to a dedicated landing page that offered links to Northwell Health’s Early Treatment Program (ETP); an online form for submitting questions to ETP staff; and the Prodromal Questionnaire–Brief (PQ-B), an evidence-based screening tool that visitors to the page could use to assess psychosis risk. Google analytics were used to record Web site engagement. 

The digital campaign ran for 14 weeks and cost $1,427. During the campaign period, the early intervention ads appeared 191,313 times and received 4,350 clicks (2.3% click rate), resulting in an average cost of 33 cents per click. Once on the landing page, 44% (1,918) of users obtained psychosis-specific informational materials, 15% (671) completed an online psychosis self-screener, and 1% (57) contacted the ETP, which translates to $25 spent per desired outcome.

Compared with the industry average among health and medical campaigns, this project had favorable outcomes in terms of click rate (2.3% versus 1.8%), cost per click (33 cents versus $3.17) and cost per outcome ($25 versus $126.29), the authors reported.

“It is possible that the leap between searching for information online and making contact with a clinical team is too big for many individuals as an initial step,” Birnbaum and colleagues wrote. “Intermediate steps toward treatment in the form of digital engagement tools would also allow researchers to learn more about what users are seeking and why, as well as the barriers they face in considering treatment for psychosis.”

To read more about early psychosis intervention, see the Psychiatric News article “Early Identification of People With Psychosis Linked to Educating Outpatient Providers.”

(Image: iStock/izusek)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Members Urged to Contact Senators While McCain Recuperates

The Senate Republican health care reform bill, titled the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), appears to be on hold indefinitely until Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) returns to the Senate from surgery for a blood clot.

At press time, it was uncertain whether the bill would garner the necessary 50 votes for passage, even if McCain were available. In the meantime, however, APA continues to urge members to contact their Senators to voice opposition to the bill and use this delay to continue to voice their concerns. 

The BCRA, revised after an earlier version of the bill failed to make it to the Senate floor in June, retains some of the most problematic aspects of the original bill. These include deep cuts to Medicaid and the ability to waive the “essential health benefits” that must be covered in plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including benefits for mental health and substance use disorders treatment.

Based on analysis by APA staff, the bill proposes to do the following:
  • Fundamentally alters the payment structure of the Medicaid program. Beginning in FY 2020, state Medicaid programs will be funded on a fixed per-beneficiary basis (that is, a per capita cap). 
  • Phases out Medicaid expansion made available to states under the ACA. States will no longer be able to expand eligibility for their Medicaid programs on January 1, 2020.
  • Establishes an optional block grant program called the Medicaid Flexibility Program.
  • Adds administrative costs and burdens to Medicaid programs. The BCRA requires states to reassess enrollees’ Medicaid eligibility once every six months. It would also give states the option of requiring nondisabled, nonelderly, and nonpregnant individuals to satisfy work requirements as a condition for eligibility.
Also under consideration is a controversial amendment to the bill proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex). The amendment would allow insurers to offer plans that do not comply with the ACA’s mandatory coverage provisions, including the requirement that plans cover certain “essential health benefits,” the prohibition against insurers increasing premiums for individuals with pre-existing conditions, and the requirement that plans offer a free annual preventative care visit to enrollees.

APA Department of Government Relations staff have prepared a detailed analysis of the bill as well as a side-by-comparison of all of the health reform proposals in play: the existing Affordable Care Act, the House-passed American Health Care Act, the initial version of BCRA from June, and the revised BCRA now pending in the Senate.

To make contacting your senator as easy as possible and voice your opinion, APA has established a special portal on the APA website that provides messaging and contact information specifically for your senators.

(Image: YinYang/

Friday, July 14, 2017

APA Calls on Senate to Reject Latest Republican Health Care Reform Bill

APA is urging members to contact their U.S. senators and voice their opposition to the new Senate health care reform bill, released yesterday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).

Senate Republicans released a revision of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), the original version of which never made it to the Senate floor for a vote when it became clear that the bill would fall short of 50 votes. The revised BCRA was introduced after McConnell announced he was delaying the start of the August recess by two weeks (until August 14) to allow more time to address the legislation.

The new BCRA still includes provisions that are deeply problematic, especially for individuals with serious mental illness and substance use disorders. The bill retains the deep Medicaid cuts that were a feature of the original reform bill and permits the removal of the essential health benefits. Both are significant concerns to APA.

“Wordsmithing and throwing money at certain constituencies to gain more votes highlights a deeply flawed Senate proposal that is insufficient,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., in a statement released yesterday. “The changed bill still rolls back access to care and allows for the removal of essential health benefits, such as treatment for mental illness and substance use disorders, that will affect millions of patients and their families—from the young to the elderly to the most vulnerable in all our communities.”

APA staff are continuing to analyze the bill. An updated cost estimate by the Congressional Budget Office is expected early next week, with Senate leadership planning a procedural vote on Tuesday or Wednesday to determine whether to proceed to debate on the bill.

APA will continue to actively engage the Senate and participate as part of a “Frontline Physician” coalition with five other groups (the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physicians, American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, and American Osteopathic Association) to express concerns with the legislation and urge senators to vote no on the bill. Yesterday, Immediate Past APA President Maria A. Oquendo, M.D., Ph.D., joined leaders of these organizations on Capitol Hill to visit key Senate offices.

APA members are urged to contact their senators through a special portal on the APA website.

(Image: designer491/

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Antidepressant Use in Pregnancy and Intellectual Disability in Offspring Not Associated, Concludes Study

An international team of researchers analyzing data from a large Swedish national registry concluded there is no association between antidepressant use during pregnancy and intellectual disability in offspring. The report was published yesterday in JAMA Psychiatry.

Researchers led by Alexander Viktorin, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, analyzed data from the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register and the Swedish National Patient Registry to estimate relative risks (RRs) for intellectual disability in children exposed during pregnancy to antidepressant medication. They also analyzed the risk associated specifically with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, all other non-SSRI antidepressants, and other nonantidepressant psychotropic medications.

Intellectual disability was defined as having at least one inpatient or outpatient specialist care admission between birth and the end of follow-up at December 31, 2014, with an ICD-10 code of F70 to F79.

Of the 179,007 children in the study, an intellectual disability was diagnosed in 0.9% of those exposed to antidepressants and in 0.5% of those not exposed. The unadjusted RR of intellectual disability in the children exposed to maternal antidepressant medication use during pregnancy was estimated at 1.97. However, when the data were adjusted for parental age, the psychiatric illness for which the mother was treated, and other variables unrelated to the medication, the increased risk disappeared and the relative risk was statistically nonsignificant.

Moreover, the analyses of risks for children born to mothers treated during pregnancy specifically with SSRI antidepressants, non-SSRI antidepressants, or nonantidepressant psychotropic medications were comparable to the analyses of children exposed to any antidepressant during pregnancy.

For related information see the Psychiatric News article “SSRI Use During Pregnancy May Increase Risk of Language Delays in Offspring.”

(Image: Jaengpeng/

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Binge Eating Medication Found Effective as Maintenance Therapy

A multinational clinical study involving more than 400 participants with binge eating disorder (BED) has found that lisdexamfetamine is significantly more effective than placebo at preventing relapse of binge eating symptoms. At the end of the six-month study, only 3.7% of patients taking lisdexamfetamine experienced a relapse compared with 32.1% of patients taking placebo.

These findings, published today in JAMA Psychiatry, provide the first evidence of lisdexamfetamine’s effectiveness as a maintenance therapy for BED.

The safety and tolerability profiles of lisdexamfetamine were favorable as well, noted lead author James Hudson, M.D., Sc.D., of Harvard Medical School and colleagues. “Overall, there was no evidence of new trends in the safety profile of lisdexamfetamine following long-term treatment or abrupt discontinuation,” they wrote.

For this study, 418 adults with moderate to severe BED (defined as at least three binge eating days per week and Clinical Global Impression-Severity [CGI-S] scores of 4 or higher) were recruited at 49 sites across the globe. All the participants initially received 12 weeks of lisdexamfetamine therapy (50 mg or 70 mg once daily); the 275 responders were then randomized to continue lisdexamfetamine therapy or placebo for 26 weeks.

Lisdexamfetamine also outperformed placebo on secondary measures, including total binge eating days per week, CGI-S scores, and obsessive-compulsive symptom scores.

“Although the clinical significance of the findings is unclear, a large proportion of participants in the placebo group failed to relapse,” the authors wrote. “This is an important issue because it could have implications for how recommendations about the need for long-term lisdexamfetamine use in individuals with BED who respond to lisdexamfetamine acutely are made.”

This study was supported by Shire Development LLC, manufacturer of lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanase).

To read more about this topic, see the Psychiatric News articles “FDA Approves First Drug for Binge-Eating Disorder” and “New DSM Guide Describes Changes to Eating, Elimination, Sleep Disorders Criteria.”

Want to Learn About Reimbursement for Psychiatric Collaborative Care Services?

APA is presenting a free webinar on Thursday, July 13, from noon to 1 p.m. that explains how to get paid for collaborative care services. This past January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services authorized payment for these services using HCPCS codes that describe the work of this model of care. Join the webinar and learn more about the billing and documentation requirements associated with the new codes. Register now!

APA is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide CME for physicians. APA designates this live activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Augmentation With Aripiprazole Found Superior When MDD Patients Don't Respond

Augmentation of antidepressant treatment with aripiprazole showed a modest but statistically significant advantage in terms of both remission and response over switching to bupropion in a population of predominantly male veterans with treatment-resistant depression.

That’s the finding from the VA Augmentation and Switching to Improve Depression (VAST-D) Study reported today in JAMA. Lead author Somaia Mohamed, M.D., Ph.D. (pictured left), of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System and colleagues cautioned that further cost-effectiveness analysis is needed given the small effect size and adverse effects associated with aripiprazole.

In comments to Psychiatric News, Mohamed said that since only a third of patients benefit from their first antidepressant treatment, clinicians typically have to choose a new medication on the basis of trial and error. “This study presents the first data indicating that adding an antipsychotic may be more effective than switching to a new antidepressant,” she said. “This study may encourage clinicians to try antipsychotics earlier than they might have otherwise.”

The study was a a multisite randomized trial with Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patients whose condition was unresponsive to at least one course of antidepressant treatment meeting minimal standards for dose and duration. Patients at 35 VA medical centers were randomized to one of three treatments: switch to another antidepressant, bupropion sustained release (switch group); augment current treatment with bupropion sustained release (augment-bupropion group); or augment current treatment with an antipsychotic, aripiprazole (augment-aripiprazole group).

Rates of remission (defined as absence of symptoms) at 12 weeks were 22.3% for the switch group, 26.9% for the augment-bupropion group, and 28.9% for the augment-aripiprazole group. Response (defined as 50 percent reduction in symptoms) was greater for the augment-aripiprazole group (74.3%) than for either the switch group (62.4%) or the augment-bupropion group (65.6%).

In an accompanying editorial, Maurizio Fava, M.D., said the VAST-D study extends findings of the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) trial. “Because the VAST-D study was implemented solely in VA sites, the population studied was predominantly male (85%), a significant difference from the usual study population in large trials of MDD, in which women typically far exceed the proportion of male study participants, as was the case with STAR*D,” he wrote.

Accordingly, the study cannot determine whether the results would have been different in a predominantly female population of patients with MDD. However, a pooled analysis of two trials comparing aripiprazole augmentation with placebo augmentation among patients with MDD and inadequate response to antidepressant therapy found that aripiprazole augmentation was actually more effective for women than men. This argues that the VAST-D study may have underestimated the relative benefit of aripiprazole augmentation.”

For information about VAST-D, see the Psychiatric News article “Study to Answer What Comes Next When MDD Patients Don't Respond.”

Monday, July 10, 2017

Bipolar Risk Calculator Developed for At-Risk Youth

In a study published last week in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers reported the development of a calculator to predict the onset of a bipolar spectrum disorder (BPSD) in at-risk youth.

BPSD was defined under DSM-IV criteria as bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymic disorder, or bipolar not otherwise specified.

The BPSD risk calculator was found to be approximately 76% accurate, which is on par with a recently developed risk calculator for new-onset psychosis as well as risk calculators used in other areas of medicine.

“We recognize that replication of these findings is warranted before the risk calculator can be confidently used for clinical decision making,” wrote lead author Danella Hafeman, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues. “In the interim, this risk calculator provides a practical tool for assessing the prognosis [of] and guiding monitoring and early intervention for offspring of parents with BD.”

Hafeman and colleagues built their calculator by incorporating seven commonly occurring risk factors for BPSD that included measures of mood and anxiety, measures of general psychosocial functioning, and age at mood-disorder onset in the parent with bipolar disorder. They then tested their model on youth enrolled in the Pittsburgh Bipolar Offspring Study, a community-based, longitudinal investigation that monitors children of parents with bipolar I or II disorder.

The study encompassed 412 at-risk offspring who had not yet experienced a manic, hypomanic, or mixed episode and included 1,058 clinician visits by these offspring where risk scores were calculated. The researchers found that the risk calculator could discriminate between a converting visit—defined as the patient being diagnosed with a BPSD within five years of the visit—versus a nonconverting visit 76% of the time.

Consistent with existing research, the parental age at mood disorder onset proved to be the most important single predictor of risk among the seven criteria included in the calculator.

“To date, research in youth at familial risk for BD has mainly focused on psychopathology, description of clinical characteristics, and potential risk factors,” wrote Esther Mesman, Ph.D., and Manon Hillegers, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands in an accompanying editorial. “Hafeman and colleagues propose an individual risk calculator for youth at familial risk for BD, an important consideration for the field of BD. Nonetheless, risk assessment is only valuable if early intervention methods and treatments are available, which should be investigated in parallel.”

To read more about this topic, see the Psychiatric News article "Experts Make Case for Lithium in Youth With Bipolar Disorder."


Want to Learn About Reimbursement for Psychiatric Collaborative Care Services?

APA is presenting a free webinar on Thursday, July 13, from noon to 1 p.m. that explains how to get paid for collaborative care services. This past January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services authorized payment for these services using HCPCS codes that describe the work of this model of care. Join the webinar and learn more about the billing and documentation requirements associated with the new codes. Register now!

APA is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide CME for physicians. APA designates this live activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Alzheimer’s Disease May Be More Likely to Be Missed in Patients With Psychosis

About one in four cases of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is misdiagnosed, according to a study published online in Alzheimer's & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions. In particular, patients with a history of psychosis were found to be more likely to be clinically misdiagnosed with other forms of dementia.

“Psychosis can be a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, but it is a defining clinical feature in other types of dementia, including Parkinson’s disease dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies,” Corinne Fischer, M.D., director of the Memory Disorders Clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and lead author of the study, said in a press release. “Consequently, clinicians are more reluctant to diagnose a patient with Alzheimer’s disease when they present with delusions or hallucinations.”

Misdiagnosis of AD has significant implications for clinical care because patients may not receive appropriate treatment, which can impact clinical outcomes. For example, treatment with existing cholinesterase inhibitors has shown some effectiveness in AD, but limited effectiveness in other forms of dementia, such as vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia.

Fischer and colleagues examined 961 people using data from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (NACC) database, collected from 29 Alzheimer’s disease centers in the United States between 2005 and 2012. They included participants who had been clinically diagnosed with AD while they were alive, and those whose autopsies showed the signature physical signs of AD in their brains.

A total of 76% of the patients received a correct AD diagnosis, 11.9% had a false-negative diagnosis, and 12.1% had a false-positive diagnosis of AD, the authors reported. Patients with psychosis had a higher rate of false-negative diagnosis and a lower rate of false-positive diagnosis of AD compared with nonpsychotic patients.

The researchers noted that most patients in the NACC database have been examined by clinicians with particular expertise in dementia, and the diagnosis given was the last one before death. Thus, the rates of misdiagnosis in this study should be considered to represent the minimum, reached under very favorable conditions. “If you extrapolate that and apply it to the general population, the magnitude of the problem could be much greater,” they wrote.

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “New Dementia Measures Address Disclosure of Diagnosis to Patients.”

(Image: iStock/fzant)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

ADHD Medications Do Not Increase Substance-Related Problems, Study Suggests

Use of medication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) does not appear to increase the risk of substance-related problems in adolescent and adult patients with ADHD, and among males it may even be protective against later substance-related problems, according to a report in AJP in Advance

“Our results cannot speak to the possibility of diversion or misuse of stimulants outside of treatment,” Patrick D. Quinn, Ph.D., of Indiana University and colleagues wrote. “However, they do join a growing evidence base of protective associations for patients receiving medication therapy. It may be useful to consider these associations in conjunction with other potential benefits and harms (such as growth delay) when making treatment decisions.”

Quinn, together with colleagues from American and Swedish institutions, used data from the Truven Health MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters (MarketScan) databases of de-identified inpatient, outpatient, and prescribed drug claims for commercially insured individuals. They identified 2,993,887 ADHD patients who received either an ADHD diagnosis or stimulant or atomoxetine ADHD medication treatment. Patients were followed from first inpatient or outpatient diagnosis or filled prescription until December 2014 (or the last month of enrollment in their health plan). A “substance-related event” was defined as at least one emergency department claim with “any non-tobacco-related substance use disorder diagnosis” during a month in which the individual was medicated for ADHD.

Relative to periods in which patients did not receive ADHD medication, male patients had 35% lower odds of concurrent substance-related events when receiving medication, and female patients, 31% lower odds. Moreover, ADHD medication predicted a 19% reduction in the odds of substance-related events two years later among male patients and a 14% reduction among female patients.

In comments to Psychiatric News, child psychiatrist and past APA Trustee David Fassler, M.D., a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont, noted that the authors appropriately considered and discussed alternative explanations for their findings, which cannot be definitively excluded due to the observational nature of the study. “However, I agree with their conclusion that the current results join a growing body of evidence supporting the protective factors associated with timely and appropriate treatment for ADHD in both adolescents and adults,” he said. 

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Medicated ADHD Patients Have Reduced Risk of Motor Vehicle Crashes.” 

(Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fluoxetine Found to Reduce Symptoms of Hypochondria

Patients experiencing symptoms of hypochondriasis may benefit from taking fluoxetine, according to a study in AJP in Advance.

“Although hypochondriasis was not retained as a diagnosis in DSM-5, the new diagnoses of illness anxiety disorder and somatic symptom disorder both retain health/illness anxiety as a prominent feature; therefore, we anticipate that the results from this trial will be generalizable to many individuals with these DSM-5 diagnoses,” Brian A. Fallon, M.D., director of the Center for Neuroinflammatory Disorders and Biobehavioral Medicine at Columbia University, and colleagues wrote.

Fallon and colleagues randomly assigned 195 adults with DSM-IV hypochondriasis to one of four treatment conditions: placebo, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), fluoxetine, or joint treatment with both fluoxetine and CBT for 24 weeks. At the start of the trial and again at 6, 12, and 24 weeks later, the patients underwent a battery of tests, which assessed hypochondriacal symptoms, other psychopathology, adverse events, functional status, and quality of life.

Patients assigned to CBT received six in-person, 60-minute weekly sessions with a therapist, followed by two biweekly and three monthly booster sessions. Patients assigned to fluoxetine received the medication on a fixed-flexible dosing regimen, beginning at 10 mg daily and increasing as tolerated and needed to 80 mg/day. 

The researchers compared the proportion of responders in each treatment group. Response was defined as improvement of at least 25% over baseline scores on both the Whiteley Index and the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale for hypochondriasis (H-YBOCS-M). 

The researchers found that patients who received either fluoxetine, CBT, or a combination of the two had better response rates than those who received placebo (41.84% in the individual active treatment group and 47.17% in the joint treatment group compared with 29.55% in the placebo group). Secondary analyses of the Whiteley Index score revealed that fluoxetine was significantly more effective than placebo and was associated with a significantly faster rate of improvement over 24 weeks. Compared with placebo, patients receiving fluoxetine also had significantly lower anxiety scores and higher quality of life scores. There were no significant differences between treatment-emergent adverse events or dropout rates across the groups. 

“The improvement with fluoxetine could not be accounted for by improvement in depression alone, as the difference in depression scores over time was not significant. This suggests that pharmacotherapy had a relatively specific effect on hypochondriacal symptoms,” Fallon and colleagues wrote. “In contrast to hypochondriasis, somatization did not improve in any of the treatment arms.”

(Image: Pressmaster/Shutterstock)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Long-Acting Buprenorphine Formulation May Reduce Cravings While Lowering Misuse Risks

Buprenorphine is a widely used therapy for opioid use disorder (OUD), but the daily sublingual formulations currently available do have their own issues. These include adherence difficulties as well as the risk of misuse or diversion.

A clinical study published in JAMA Psychiatry has now tested a new, weekly injectable form of buprenorphine called CAM2308. “CAM2038 produced clinically relevant buprenorphine plasma levels, translating into rapid and sustained opioid blockade and withdrawal suppression, and was well-tolerated both systemically and locally. Findings suggest that CAM2038 formulations will be effective in reducing illicit opioid use and relapse, while eliminating the risk for misuse and diversion,” wrote Sharon Walsh, Ph.D., of the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research at the University of Kentucky and colleagues.

For this study, supported in part by CAM2038 manufacturer Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, 47 adults with moderate-to-severe OUD were randomized to received two doses of either 24 mg or 32 mg of CAM2038 one week apart. Immediately prior to and four times during the two-week trial, the participants were also randomized to receive a placebo or 6 mg or 18 mg of the opioid hydromorphone for three consecutive days in order to illicit “drug liking” responses and evaluate CAM2038 response.

Walsh and colleagues observed that both weekly CAM2038 doses produced rapid and sustained inhibition of hydromorphone’s euphoria-inducing effects, even at the 18-mg hydromorphone dose. CAM2038 was also able to effectively suppress opiate withdrawal symptoms throughout the two-week study period.

Adverse events due to CAM2038 were reported by a little more than half of the participants and mostly rated as mild. Constipation, injection-site pain, and headache were the most common effects reported.

This study was also supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing of Translational Sciences.

To read more about this topic, see the Psychiatric News article “Tackling Opioid Overdose Epidemic Demands Multiple Approaches.”

(Image: iStock/Ca-ssis)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Sleep Disturbances Found to Predict Suicide Ideation in High-Risk Youth

Disturbed sleep may be a short-term indicator of increased suicidal ideation in young adults at high risk of suicide, according to a study published this week in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

“Sleep disturbances stand apart from other risk factors because they are visible as a warning sign, yet non-stigmatizing and highly treatable … using brief, fast-acting interventions,” said lead author Rebecca Bernert, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, in a press release. “That is why we believe they may represent an important treatment target in suicide prevention.”

Bernert and colleagues recruited 50 adults aged 18 to 23 who reported at least one past suicide attempt and/or recent suicide ideation from a university undergraduate research pool for the three-week study. At the start of the study, and 7 and 21 days later, participants answered questionnaires to measure the severity of their suicidal symptoms, insomnia, nightmares, depression, and alcohol use.

The researchers assessed participants’ sleep objectively for one week, during which participants wore watch-like devices containing an accelerometer to measure their wrist movements while asleep or trying to sleep. (The device had been validated as an accurate way to distinguish sleep-wake patterns and generate a variety of sleep metrics.)

Of the 50 participants included in the trial, 48 (96%) had at least one prior suicide attempt. Mean actigraphy values revealed objectively disturbed sleep parameters in these patients: 39 (78%) exhibited sleep patterns indicating clinically significant insomnia and 18 (36%) showed signs of nightmares.

The researchers found that that actigraphic and self-reported sleep disturbances (insomnia, nightmares, and sleep-onset variability) predicted acute suicidal ideation symptom changes at 7- and 21-day follow-ups, even when controlled for the severity of participants’ depression, substance use, and the severity of their suicidal symptoms at the start of the study. Falling asleep at very different times each night and waking at different times in the morning was especially predictive of an increase in suicidal symptoms at the 7- and 21-day marks. Participants with substantial variation in falling asleep times also reported more insomnia and nightmares, which independently predicted more suicidal behaviors, according to the study.

“To our knowledge, this is the first longitudinal report indicating that objectively and subjectively measured sleep disturbance confers risk for suicidal ideation independent of depression severity,” the study authors wrote. “Given the ease of sleep disturbance assessment and treatment, and its unique visibility as a warning sign, we propose poor sleep as a potential biomarker and therapeutic target for suicide prevention.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Sleep Experts Issue Recommendations for Children and Adolescent Sleep.”

(Image: iStock/diane39)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Wider Use of ECT May Lead to Lower Readmission Rates, Study Finds

Patients with severe affective disorders who receive inpatient treatment with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be less likely to be readmitted for psychiatric care 30 days following discharge than those who do not receive this treatment, reports a study published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry. The findings suggest that broader use of ECT may lead to fewer readmissions of these patients.

“Previous studies have found that treatment with ECT is associated with remission from depressive disorders and reductions in mortality in individuals with MDD [major depressive disorder] and posttraumatic stress disorder,” lead author Eric Slade, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and colleagues wrote. “The results of the present study add evidence that wider availability of ECT may result in up to 46% fewer inpatient readmissions within 30 days of discharge among individuals with severe affective disorders.”

For the study, Slade and colleagues relied on information contained in the Health Care Utilization Project’s State Inpatient Databases (SID) from general hospitals in the following nine states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Utah, and Washington. (The rate of inpatient readmission within 30 days following discharge from psychiatric inpatient care is a metric commonly used to evaluate mental health systems.) While SIDs are available for most states, only the nine states included in the study had complete data on patient readmissions.

Among the 162,691 inpatients with a principal diagnosis of MDD, bipolar disorder, or schizoaffective disorder included in the analysis, 2,486 (1.5%) underwent ECT during their index admission. Compared with inpatients being treated for mental illness, those who received ECT were older, more likely to be female, and/or white non-Hispanic; have MDD diagnoses rather than either bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder; have private or Medicare insurance coverage; and were more likely to be seen in small, urban hospitals or nonurban hospitals.

Administration of ECT was associated with a reduced 30-day readmission risk among psychiatric inpatients with severe affective disorders from an estimated 12.3% among individuals not administered ECT to 6.6% among individuals administered ECT (risk ratio=0.54)—a 46% reduction in 30-day readmission risk. “The effect of ECT on 30-day readmission risk did not differ significantly by age or race/ethnicity but was relatively larger among men than women and among individuals with bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder than among those with MDD,” the authors wrote.

“The findings of Slade et al. should be interpreted in the context of a large and diverse body of evidence regarding ECT efficacy,” Harold Sackeim, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, wrote in a related editorial. “This includes randomized trials comparing ECT with sham treatment (anesthesia alone), randomized comparisons of the effect of ECT technical factors on clinical outcomes, randomized comparisons with pharmacotherapy, and large, prospective patient series in research and community settings. The evidence indicating that ECT is effective in the treatment of mood disorders is diverse, long-standing, and incontrovertible. In both the short term and long term, it appears to exert greater benefit than pharmacological alternatives.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Older Patients With Depression May Benefit From ECT, Medication Combo.”

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

More Than Half of All U.S. Opioid Prescriptions Go to Patients With Mental Illness, Study Suggests

An estimated 16% of people in the United States have a diagnosed mental illness, yet this population receives over half of all prescribed opioids, reports a study scheduled to appear in the July issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

“There exists a complex interaction of factors related to the patient, provider, and medical and social conditions that ultimately results in the decision to prescribe an opioid,” wrote study authors Matthew Davis, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of Michigan and colleagues.

“Our findings … suggest that there may be additional patient- and provider-related factors specific to those with mental illness that increase the likelihood of receiving prescription opioids,” they continued. “Such a relationship is particularly concerning because mental illness is also a prominent risk factor for overdose and other adverse opioid-related outcomes.”

Davis and colleagues performed their study using data from the 2011 and 2013 results of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a national survey conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality that gathers extensive information on health care use, including prescription medications, and expenditures.

They found that approximately 19% of adults with a mental health disorder were opioid users (defined as fulfilling at least two opioid prescriptions in a calendar year), compared with only 5% of adults without a mental health disorder. After adjusting for sociodemographic and health factors, adults with mental health disorders had more than twice the odds of being an opioid user (odds ratio=2.08). The higher risk of opioid use in adults with mental illness was evident across a range of pain types, such as cancer pain or muscular pain.

When extrapolating their data to the general population, Davis and colleagues estimated that 60 million of the approximately 115 million opioid prescriptions distributed each year (51.4%) go to the 38.6 million adults with mental health disorders.

John Renner, M.D., vice chair of APA’s Council on Addiction Psychiatry, commented on the study results. “The overlap between depression and chronic pain is well known. Once patients are given an opioid, they may notice a reduction in pain and an improvement in mood and then may be very resistant to stopping the opioid. Patients may not even be conscious of the improved mood, but they are more likely to try to continue the medication. I do not think that physicians deliberately prescribe an opioid because of the presence of mental illness; data seem to suggest that many primary care physicians aren’t screening for psychiatric symptoms.”

To read more about this topic, see the Psychiatric News article “APA Holds Congressional Briefing on Ending the Opioid Epidemic” and the Psychiatric Services article “Prescriptions Filled Following an Opioid-Related Hospitalization.”

(Image: iStock/smartstock)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Millions to Lose Health Coverage Under Senate Health Bill, CBO Predicts

The Senate Republicans' proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would increase the number of people without health insurance by 15 million in 2018 and 22 million people by 2026, according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis released on Monday. APA responded promptly to the news, renewing its call for the U.S. Senate to reject the bill known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).

“The CBO report highlights in stark terms the negative impact of the Senate proposal. The bill would reverse much progress in recent years by rolling back Medicaid expansion, capping the Medicaid program, and allowing states to waive critical essential health benefits,” APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., said in a press release. “These changes would be particularly devastating to the millions of Americans in need of mental health and substance use treatment.”

The CBO estimates that by 2026, the BCRA would leave 49 million people uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law. Last month, the CBO estimated that the American Health Care Act (AHCA)—which narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May—would leave some 14 million more people uninsured in 2018 than under the current law and 23 million more by 2026.

The Senate’s health bill would also cut the federal deficit by $321 billion over the decade, according to the CBO. “The largest savings would come from reductions in outlays for Medicaid—spending on the program would decline in 2026 by 26 percent in comparison with what CBO projects under current law—and from changes to the [ACA’s] subsidies for nongroup health insurance,” according to the analysis.

Earlier Monday, APA released a three-page fact sheet summarizing how Medicaid changes could impact access to and the delivery of mental health and substance use disorder treatment services, among other provisions.

“In less than a year after passing comprehensive mental health reform on a bipartisan, bicameral basis, the Senate is now working to pass harmful legislation that will take a significant step backward on the advances to treat those with mental illness and substance use disorders,” Levin continued. “We strongly urge the Senate to reject this deeply flawed proposal.”

The Senate vote on the bill has been delayed due to insufficient support until after the July 4 recess. However, calls and emails expressing concerns are still important as we need to keep the pressure on key senators over the recess.

Your Voice Counts
APA urges you to contact your senators and speak out against the Senate health care reform bill. APA has created a dedicated tool to make it easy for you to voice your opinion via Facebook, Twitter, or phone.

(Image: iStock/carterdayne)

Monday, June 26, 2017

APA Releases Overview on Impact of Senate Health Bill on Psychiatry

Within a matter of days, the Senate could vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA)—the bill unveiled last week by Senate Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and make significant changes to the Medicaid program. 

Tucked within the 142-page discussion draft of BCRA are numerous provisions likely to affect Americans with mental health and substance use disorders. APA’s Government Relations team has created a three-page fact sheet summarizing how BCRA might affect access to and the delivery of mental health and substance use disorder treatment services. 

As described in more detail in the fact sheet, BCRA would cap federal funding for state Medicaid programs on a per-beneficiary basis, phase out the Medicaid expansion made available to states under the ACA, and add administrative costs and burdens to Medicaid. BCRA would also allow states to waive the federal requirements that plans carry certain essential health benefits (EHB)—a change the fact sheet notes “could affect large employer plans, which are only prohibited from imposing annual and lifetime limits on EHB and only required to cap out-of-pocket expenditures for EHB.”

“Eliminating requirements for coverage of key benefits, including mental health and substance use disorders and other patient protections that are part of the Affordable Care Act, will have detrimental impacts for millions,” said APA President-Elect Altha Stewart, M.D., in a press release issued by APA last week. “Mental health is critical to overall health and needs to be equally accessible.”

Additional provisions affecting access to and delivery of evidence-based mental health and substance use disorder treatment services include the following:

  • BCRA would create a one-time appropriation of $2 billion in FY 2018 to HHS “to provide grants to States to support substance use disorder treatment and recovery support services for individuals with mental or substance use disorders.” This amount is much less than was offered in the House version of the bill, known as the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628), which passed the House on May 4.
  • BCRA would repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which is a significant source of funding for programs administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 
  • States may include inpatient psychiatric services as an optional benefit in their Medicaid plans for individuals aged 21 to 65. The bill also provides a lower match for such services (50 percent) furnished on or after October 1, 2018.

“The Senate proposal represents a significant move in the wrong direction, resulting in fewer people having access to insurance, fewer patient protections, and less coverage for essential behavioral health care,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., in the press release. “We urge the Senate to reject this harmful legislation and start again on a health care bill that puts patients first.” 

The House version of the bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), would leave some 14 million more Americans uninsured next year than under the current law and 23 million more uninsured by 2026. The Senate bill awaits CBO analysis.

Your Voice Counts
APA urges you to contact your senators and speak out against the Senate health care reform bill released today. APA has created a dedicated tool to make it easy for you to voice your opinion via Facebook, Twitter, or phone.

(Image: iStock/flySnow)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Brain Inflammation Linked to OCD, Study Suggests

Brain inflammation appears to be significantly higher in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) than those without the condition, according to a study published this week in JAMA Psychiatry

“This finding represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in understanding the biology of OCD, and may lead to novel therapeutic treatments,” senior author Jeffrey H. Meyer, M.D., Ph.D., said in a press release. Meyer is the head of the Neurochemical Imaging Program in Mood and Anxiety at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto. 

A new direction for developing treatments for OCD is welcomed because about one-third of patients with OCD do not adequately respond to current medications, such as antidepressants, according to the authors.

Meyer and colleagues recruited 20 people with OCD and 20 age-matched healthy controls for the study. The participants were all in good physical health, were not taking medications, and were between the ages of 19 and 48. None of the participants had a history of autoimmune disease or neurologic illness or injury. Psychiatric disorders and OCD were confirmed using the Structured Clinical Interview of DSM-IV.

All participants underwent a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, using a fluorine dye to measure a marker of microglial activity in six brain regions (dorsal caudate, orbitofrontal cortex, thalamus, ventral striatum, dorsal putamen, and anterior cingulate cortex). Activated microglia (immune cells) are known to trigger neuroinflammation.

The researchers found that in people with OCD, inflammation was on average 32% higher in these regions than among those without the condition. 

“To our knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating inflammation within the neurocircuitry of OCD,” Meyer and colleagues wrote. “Although pharmaceutical development does not traditionally prioritize OCD, neuromodulatory treatments under development for other diseases associated with microglial activation, such as Alzheimer disease, might be repurposed toward OCD.” 

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Report Highlights Alternative Treatment Options for OCD.”

(Image: iStock/JohnnyGreig)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

APA to Senate: Reject Health Care Reform Proposal That Fails to Put Patients First

APA is urging the Senate to reject the health care reform proposal unveiled today by Senate Republicans. A vote on this bill is expected to come as early as next week, before lawmakers break for the July 4 recess.

The proposed Senate bill rolls back Medicaid expansion, caps federal funding for the Medicaid program, and removes protections for people with pre-existing health conditions. 

“Eliminating requirements for coverage of key benefits, including mental health and substance use disorders and other patient protections that are part of the Affordable Care Act, will have detrimental impacts for millions,” APA President-Elect Altha Stewart, M.D., said in a press release issued by APA today. “Mental health is critical to overall health and needs to be equally accessible.”

Among other provisions, APA opposes changes to Medicaid that would result in the loss of coverage for many Americans, including the estimated 2.8 million with substance use disorders and 1.3 million with serious mental illness, who gained coverage for the first time under the expansion of Medicaid under the current law. The proposed changes to Medicaid could also mean fewer resources for fighting the nation’s opioid epidemic. 

“The Senate proposal represents a significant move in the wrong direction, resulting in fewer people having access to insurance, fewer patient protections, and less coverage for essential behavioral health care,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., in the press release. “We urge the Senate to reject this harmful legislation and start again on a health care bill that puts patients first.”

Before the Senate’s proposal was made public, APA expressed significant reservations about how the bill was being drafted without the input of patient and physician groups. In an all-member email sent Monday night, Levin urged members to act. “Mental health and substance use treatment is a bipartisan issue,” Levin wrote. “Over the years, APA has worked with both sides of the aisle to achieve passage of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008, its expansion to cover mental health and substance use disorders as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016.”

The House version of the bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), would leave some 14 million more Americans uninsured next year than under the current law and 23 million more uninsured by 2026. The Senate bill awaits CBO analysis.

Your Voice Counts
APA urges you to contact your senators and speak out against the Senate health care reform bill released today. APA has created a dedicated tool to make it easy for you to voice your opinion via Facebook, Twitter, or phone.

(Image: Mikhail Kolesnikov/Shutterstock)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Clonazepam May Reduce Risk of Relapse in Patients With Panic Disorder

While most patients with panic disorder respond to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, benzodiazepines, and/or a combination of the two, the risk of relapse after drug discontinuation is known to be high. A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology now suggests that patients who take clonazepam may be at a lower risk of relapse than those treated with paroxetine.

The findings were based on an observational, prospective, six-year follow-up study of patients with panic disorder who participated in an open, randomized trial in which they were assigned to take either clonazepam (0.5 mg/d to 2 mg/d) or paroxetine (10 mg/d to 40 mg/d) for eight weeks. Patients who responded to the assigned monotherapy after eight weeks continued this treatment for 34 months; partial or nonresponders were offered a combined treatment with clonazepam and paroxetine. After 34 months in the long-term study, clonazepam and paroxetine were tapered (four months for clonazepam taper, and six weeks for paroxetine taper).

Of the 95 patients who completed the three-year study, 10 failed to achieve remission. The researchers conducted follow-up assessments with the 85 patients who achieved remission at years 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 following the discontinuation of clonazepam, paroxetine, or a combination of the two. These assessments evaluated the number of panic attacks the patients experienced per month, Clinical Global Impression-Severity (CGI-S) scores, and the 14-item Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) scores. (Patients were considered to have relapsed if they were receiving psychotherapy or medication for panic disorder symptoms, had CGI-S scores greater than 1, or had panic attacks in the month preceding the assessment.)

Over the course of the follow-up period, cumulative relapse rates increased from 50% (n=33) at 1 year to 89.4% (n=76) at 6 years. However, one-year relapse rates were lower in patients previously treated with clonazepam (p=0.001) compared with those treated with paroxetine. Similarly, patients treated with clonazepam showed consistently lower relapse rates at 6 years compared with patients who had not taken clonazepam.

According to lead author Rafael C. Freire, M.D., Ph.D., of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and colleagues, the study suggests that despite long-term treatment, patients with panic disorder remain at high risk of recurrence when treatment is discontinued. “Treatment with clonazepam appears to protect these patients against relapse, but further studies are needed to support this affirmation,” the authors concluded.

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Benzodiazepines: Experts Urge Balance.”

(Image: BCFC/Shutterstock)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

APA Members Urged to Voice Opposition to Senate Health Bill Today

APA members are urged to contact their U.S. senators to voice opposition to the health care reform bill now being considered in the Senate. Senators are expected to vote on the bill, which is based on the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA), by July 4.

The Senate Republican health care overhaul bill would strip 23 million people of their health insurance coverage and cap the Medicaid program—cutting over $880 billion from the program, which is the largest provider of behavioral health services for psychiatric patients. It would also end the guaranteed inclusion of mental health and substance use disorder treatment services in the list of Essential Health Benefits covered under current law.

Members are encouraged to contact their senators by phone, Twitter, or Facebook. A dedicated page on APA’s website will help members make contact with their Senators through these avenues.

In an all-member email delivered last evening, APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., urged members to act. “Mental health and substance use treatment is a bipartisan issue,” Levin wrote. “Over the years, APA has worked with both sides of the aisle to achieve passage of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008, its expansion to cover mental health and substance use disorders as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016.”

Senate offices track phone messages and respond to social media. “Your calls and action do count,” Levin said. “We ask that you voice opposition to any bill that would negatively impact patients, and we appreciate your standing with us to do what is right for our patients.”

For more information, see the Psychiatric News article “CBO Says Millions of People Could Lose Coverage Under AHCA.”

(Image: flySnow/


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