The Double-Whammy of Mental Illness and Tardive Dyskinesia Just Got a Little Easier

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So I don’t think it will surprise anyone to learn that people living with mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder have to put up with a huge ration of s*** from society. Much of this has to do with the stigma of living with mental illness, fueled in large part by a lack of understanding and hyper-exaggerated portrayals in TV and films. An unfortunate side effect of this stigma is an insidious denial that mental health conditions are legitimate illnesses—and by extension, that medications for mental health conditions are legitimate treatments.

Well, as someone who is living with—and taking medications for—depression and an anxiety disorder, I’m happy to report that treatment ABSOLUTELY WORKS. Trust me, it’s legit.

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However, if you’ve read Patient Worthy long enough (hi there!), you’ll know every treatment carries with it the potential for side effects. And unfortunately, many patients taking antipsychotic medications for schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder have developed a side effect called tardive dyskinesia.

Tardive dyskinesia is a distinct disorder that involves involuntary movements, most often affecting the tongue, lips, and face.

Researchers aren’t sure why certain medications cause this disorder, or why some patients develop it and others don’t. But one thing is clear: the repetitive and involuntary movements of tardive dyskinesia add another layer of stigmatization that mental health patients really don’t need. Especially when the only way to “treat” tardive dyskinesia has been to discontinue use of the antipsychotic medication.

Fortunately, help may finally be at hand. Earlier this year, the FDA approved Neurocrine Biosciences’ Ingrezza™ (valbenazine), the first medication specifically for adults with tardive dyskinesia.

The approval was based on the results of a 234-participant clinical trial that compared Ingrezza to placebo and showed that participants taking Ingrezza had improvements in the severity of their abnormal movements. In recognition of the huge need for this therapy, the FDA had earlier granted the Ingrezza application Fast Track and Priority Review, as well as Breakthrough Therapy designation.

While it remains to be seen how the broader patient population will respond to Ingrezza, it’s a pretty big deal that there’s something available that will hopefully make life a little easier for folks who could really use a break. Fingers crossed for the future!

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