Inside the mental health aftermath of the Logem scandal – from a health crisis user’s perspective

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‘No clear link’ between deaths of six people with epilepsy and medication switch, chief coroner finds 

There is no clear evidence linking the deaths of six people who suffered epileptic seizures to a change in the brand of medication they used, the chief coroner has found.

It comes after a joint inquest was launched last year into whether switching to Logem, a generic form of the anticonvulsant medicine lamotrigine, contributed to the deaths of Ricky Blackler, Reuben Brown, Krystle Loye, Andre Maddock, William Oliver and Jessica Reid.

Pharmac in 2019 made Logem the only funded brand of lamotrigine, having estimated it could save $30 million over five years by reducing the number of brands it funded.
As a result, about 89 percent of patients – 10,700 Kiwis – had their medication switched. An internal Pharmac memo noted that if patients suffered adverse effects during the transition it would be associated with the brand switch.

Not long after, seven deaths were reported to the Centre for Adverse Reports Monitoring (CARM) as potentially being linked to the change. All but one were probed as part of the inquest.

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But in findings released on Friday, chief coroner Judge Deborah Marshall said she was unable to make any recommendations or comments as “the evidence does not clearly link the brand switch to the seizures that led to the deaths”.

I’m not at all surprised that Pharmac has managed to escape accountability for their decision to swap a generic cheaper brand for a medicine they weren’t aware was also being used to treat bipolar conditions AND seizures.

Not surprised because the Masters write the rules.

Pharmac’s only response was to tell patients who suffered adverse reactions to contact their GP. Below is the first hand experience of someone who had Logem switched and the damage it caused them. They question the ease with which those impacted can actually obtain the medicine they need and casts doubt on the current mental health service provision.

 

Still struggling finally got an appointment to go on an alternative for logem. I made the appointment a week ago so the wait is literally three months just to get a replacement medication it’s nuts

They can give me something else that is the same type of medication as logem, an anti epilepsy mood stabiliser. The only approved treatment for bipolar is this class of drugs. I can’t believe it’s taking them this long just to replace the medication they fucked up.

I will have my appointment and then another appointment in a month because the community mental health psychiatrist only visits approved GP practices once a month, and at that second appointment she might give approval for my GP to start me on the new medication. 

This is the Governments fantastic plan to discharge people into the community to their GP and say the GP pathway offers the consumer ongoing access to their support and advice.  

That’s not true the only way the GP can actually get any support is if his/her patient makes an appointment with this psychiatrist and waits three months to see her and then on the second appointment another month later the GP should get a letter with recommendations that allow the GP to follow the recommendations. 

Four months at my practice and that’s probably a short wait compared to other places that have more social issues and mentally ill and substance abuse struggling populations. 

Their so called community pathway for GPSsis bullshit but it’s allowing them to discharge their patients into the community to their GP who can’t do anything and hasn’t got any training or experience with mental health and is not legally allowed to make decisions or prescribe medication for mental health except for antidepressants for anxiety or depression so long as the person fills out a test and they get a certain score. 

It’s bullshit for the consumer and the GPs!

But actually my main concern is the GPs. They have enough to deal with without now being forced to be responsible for people they legally can’t help and the GPs end up being obligated to ring the police to deal with the person so they can get people seen in hospital. It’s bullshit because community mental health are shirking their responsibility onto the GP and the police and the overloaded emergency department and then the psych registrar is the one dealing with the fall out and they can only drug people up on sedatives and send them back to the GP!

The GP, the police and the hospital are already overworked and picking up the slack. The cops are getting resentful and taking it out on mentally Ill people because they know it’s wrong and not their job to babysit unwell people and the emergency department staff are getting burnt out and resentful and the hospital security guards are getting called when it never should have got that far. 

The GP, the police, the emergency department staff, they all know they are doing someone else’s job and they get burnt out and resentful and people get hurt.

Someone needs to step in for those staff and make the government fund community mental health to do their job!

The other people dealing with this new great plan is the community health care workers having to visit mentally ill and potentially dangerous clients in their own homes to do caregiving and then they get jaded and burn out and treat people like shit too.

I know girls in BUPA and Access caregiving agencies who are getting assaulted by person and being forced to physically force these unwell people to take their medication and shower and all the stuff that community mental health should be doing. These girls aren’t trained to deal with mental health they are trained to help nice old ladies that need help showering or making meals or remembering to take medication

Australia created this system and started discharging people from mental health services to their community support with this stupid GP pathway that actually just means we are downsizing mental health services and turfing them onto already overworked overwhelmed and untrained services who quickly get overwhelmed and start treating people like shit because they know they are doing a job they didn’t train for that someone else should be doing. 

Anyone would be annoyed if they suddenly had to do someone else’s job with no extra training or time or pay.

If this is how damaged and broken the mental health system is, you understand why Mike King handed back his Queens Service Award.

What is being described in the first person here is a mental health system designed by bureaucrats without any thought of the end user and their agency.

How can saving $5million a year have justified this kind of damage for the end users?

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Well done Martyn. Excellent piece, and respect for highlighting the voice of someone actually negatively impacted.

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