Tuesday, November 26, 2002
By: Erika E. Durham, Courier staff November 27, 2002
Montgomery County residents who suffer from schizophrenia are now able to help themselves and several others who share their life-changing illness.
Tri-County Mental Health and Mental Retardation is recruiting patients to participate in a new study of medications. Those recruited will undergo a series of tests to discover a drug that will successfully enhance the lives people with schizophrenia.
"We really don't have a drug at this time that can truly help people with the disease, and that is what we are working toward," MHMR research recruiter C.J. Reynolds said. The nationwide study, which recently took root in Montgomery County, is called the CATIE study. It stands for Clinical Antipsychotic Trials Intervention Effectiveness project. The study, which is funded by $60 million in funds from the National Institute of Mental Health, is being spearheaded by Dr. Irvin Belz and already has influenced the lives of 30 people in the local area, according to Reynolds.
"This is an important opportunity for Tri-County MHMR to provide more services to residents in the area now and in the future, help physicians and patients make more informed choices about treatment, and as a result improve the quality of life for everyone impacted by the illness," he said. The research will include a double-blind study requiring mentally ill patients to take a combination of five medications. The five medications are clozapine, risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine and ziprasidone, which have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"In addition to the medication, participants are offered support through individual assessments and ongoing education. They are closely monitored throughout the study," Belz said.
"We also welcome and encourage family members or caregivers to be involved."
Reynolds said the 18-month long treatment has had a tremendous impact on the lives of county residents, such as Samuel Velasquez, who was a successful financial auditor before he developed the symptoms of schizophrenia and had to retire with medical disability.
Velasquez, 65, said he has seen significant change in his behavior since enrolling in the program in August. "I am doing so much better and I think that if I can help another schizophrenic patient with the program, then that is satisfying for me," he said.
Daniel Foster, who also lives in the Conroe area, said he was diagnosed in 1980 with the disease and only recently has he seen any progress in his illness.
Foster said he learned about the study during a stay at the mental hospital in Rusk.
"Things are much clearer for me now," said Foster, who is known to MHMR staff as the man with the incredible memory. "This has been a very good experience." According to Reynolds, Tri-County wants to change the lives of individuals such as Velasquez and Foster and eventually the entire schizophrenic population.
For more information on the CATIE study or to register for participation, contact C.J. Reynolds at (936) 525-2759. ©The Courier 2002