FRIDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors must not forget
about the physical health of people with serious mental health
disorders who take antipsychotic drugs, experts warn.
The authors of an editorial in the Feb. 19 issue of
The Lancet noted that patients with severe mental illness
live an average of 16 years less than people in the general
population. Heart disease, not suicide, is the major cause of death
in these patients and antipsychotic drugs are a factor.
A study published recently in the
Archives of General Psychiatry found that patients who took
an antipsychotic drug gained 11 to 13 pounds within six to eight
weeks after they starting taking the drug.
"The combination of antipsychotic side effects with poor diet, physical inactivity, high rates of smoking and other factors associated with psychotic illness, together with socioeconomic deprivation, has a devastating effect on cardiometabolic health," according to the editorial.
"If existing antipsychotics are here to stay -- at least for the foreseeable future -- what can be done to ameliorate their effects and improve patients' cardiometabolic health?" the authors asked.
Sole responsibility for safeguarding the physical health of
patients with serious mental health conditions often falls to
primary care providers, but mental health teams need to take an
active role in that care, the editorial suggests. For example, a
patient's physical health should be assessed when they enter mental
"A lack of training in physical health issues is worrying in psychiatric doctors and nurses alike. In view of the wealth of evidence about the interconnections between mental health, physical health and prescribed medication, postgraduate psychiatric training should prioritize up-to-date knowledge about evidence-based management of cardiometabolic disease," the authors wrote.
They concluded: "Antipsychotic drugs are a clear risk to
cardiometabolic health. This risk is, all too often, a necessary
one. But the trade-off between mental and physical well-being is
one that no patient should be forced to make. The mind-body
dichotomy is both outdated and dangerous. The price of good mental
health must not be a lifetime of physical illness."
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about
mental health medications.