Pharmacists in “ideal position” to help mental health patients

Media release: 3 June 2020

The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand says community pharmacists are in an “ideal position” to help improve physical health outcomes for mental health patients.

The recent story in Stuff of the death of Auckland man, Darryl Murray, from sepsis as a result of mega-colon, or abnormal dilation of the colon, has prompted calls for District Health Boards to issue stronger warnings about the side effects of taking clozapine.

“It is now internationally recognised that serious mental illness reduces life expectancy by up to 25 years, and that many of these deaths are from physical health problems which could have been prevented,” according to President of the Pharmaceutical Society, Ian McMichael.

“Māori and Pacific populations are particularly at risk, with Māori men the largest group prescribed clozapine,” he said.

“There are approximately 5,000 clozapine patients in New Zealand. Pharmacists see these people regularly when they come to collect their medication. Pharmacists are in an ideal position to provide these patients with extra support for both their physical and mental health,” explains McMichael.

The Pharmaceutical Society is calling for District Health Boards to enable pharmacists to provide a “wrap around” service in the community for these patients.

Many of the serious mental health patients in the community seldom see their family doctor as prescriptions are provided by hospital specialists.

McMichael says, “When patients come into a pharmacy to pick up their medication, pharmacists could consult with them on seven clinical factors; medication use, smoking cessation, bowel habits, diet, exercise, alcohol usage and general mood.”

“With improving mental health and wellbeing in the community a key focus for this government, the pharmacy profession is endeavouring to work with all government agencies to ensure this vulnerable population are better cared for.”