One in every four people is affected by a mental illness and the majority struggle to keep up with treatment and face ridicule, often stigmatised in workplaces, schools and homes.
Kenya is one of the countries where various neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and epilepsy are especially are on the rise.
Although there is no official data on how many people suffer from schizophrenia in the country, it is a relief for many that the Pharmacy and Poisons Board has approved the use of Paliperidone Palmitate. The drug is manufactured by Janssen, pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson, for the maintenance treatment of schizophrenia in adults whose disease has already been stabilised.
The approval is expected to boost ongoing efforts to address the burden of mental illness and access to quality care in Kenya.
Schizophrenia requires lifelong treatment, even when symptoms have subsided.
Paliperidone Palmitate is a second generation, long acting injectable antipsychotic which will be administered monthly. The new drug works as a receptor antagonist of dopamine and serotonin, leading to the stabilisation of these two chemicals in the brain.
Janssen Kenya Country Manager Marseille Onyango noted that the burden of schizophrenia and related illnesses was on the rise and the introduction of Paliperidone Palmitate in the market would improve access to more treatment options for patients with schizophrenia.
“As a company committed to bringing innovative medicine to patients, we want to play our part and join forces in the national mental health policy rollout agenda as we aspire for better health outcomes for all,” said Onyango.
Bassem Haider, Janssen Country Director for sub-Saharan Africa and Syria expressed optimism that the new treatment will provide much-needed relief for patients with schizophrenia and their families.
Schizophrenia is a complex and chronic brain disorder in which symptoms can be severe and disabling and can affect all aspects of a person’s daily life.
It affects people from all countries, socio-economic groups and cultures. Its prevalence is similar around the world - almost one person in every 100 will develop schizophrenia before they reach the age of 60, with men slightly more at risk.
There is no single cause of schizophrenia. Different factors acting together are thought to contribute to the development of the illness. Both genetic and environmental factors seem to be important. Symptoms of schizophrenia can include hallucinations, delusions, lack of emotional response, social withdrawal and depression, apathy and a lack of drive or initiative.