Ontario Becomes Second Province to Cover New Treatment for Patients Living with Serious Mental Illness

    MISSISSAUGA, ON, June 27 /CNW/ - Ontarians with schizophrenia have
renewed hope for a better life following the Ontario Government's decision to
expand treatment options for patients through the listing of SEROQUEL XR(R) on
the provincial formulary.
    "This is great news because patients and their physicians now have
another valuable tool for managing this chronic psychiatric disorder. Patients
with schizophrenia often have to manage complicated dosing schedules that
require them to take their medication two to three times per day. This can
make adherence difficult, putting patients at risk for relapse and potentially
impairing their ability to return to an optimal level of functioning," said
Dr. Irvin Epstein, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of
Toronto and Staff Psychiatrist in the First Episode Program at Centre for
Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). "The simplified once-daily dosing of
SEROQUEL XR helps patients reach an effective dose more quickly, and causes
less disruption in their day. This can help improve overall adherence,
potentially maximizing rates of recovery and enhancing long-term outcomes."
    There is no cure for schizophrenia; however, it can be treated
effectively with a combination of medication, education, primary care
services, hospital and community-based services, such as housing and
employment. While antipsychotic medication forms the cornerstone of treatment
for schizophrenia(1), adherence to a patient-specific treatment plan is
essential for avoiding illness relapse, preventing hospitalization and
decreasing stigma(1).
    In the 2008 Ontario Budget, the Government demonstrated its commitment to
improve the lives of individuals suffering from mental illness through an
investment of $80 million over three years for mental health and addiction
services(2). The investment, driven by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term
Care, includes programs that focus on early psychosis intervention, treatment
and community management.
    "We recognize the steps the Ontario Ministry of Health is taking to
improve patient access to mental health care in the province," said Mark
Jones, President of AstraZeneca Canada. "AstraZeneca Canada remains committed
to partnering with the Government to support their work on developing
sustainable solutions that address individual needs of patients."
    "Schizophrenia is a highly complex illness and typically each patient
responds differently. The selection of a medication to treat one's symptoms is
an art. Choosing the right drug, at an adequate dose to effectively target
symptoms is critical to help patients return to a more normal lifestyle,"
continued Dr. Epstein. "Limiting the rate of disability and preventing
re-emergence of symptoms is the goal of effective treatment. Any new option
that can offer patients and their families hope, is welcomed."


    Schizophrenia is a serious, but treatable mental illness affecting
approximately one per cent of the general population at some point in their
lives(3). An estimated 120,000 Ontarians have the condition. Symptoms often
first present during adolescence and early adulthood (late teens to mid-30s),
however relapses of acute psychotic episodes can occur throughout one's
lifetime(3). The potential risk of suicide and self-harm among individuals
suffering from schizophrenia is significant. Studies indicate that 20 to
40 per cent of schizophrenia patients attempt suicide during their lifetime
and 5 to 13 per cent will successfully take their own lives(4).
    The condition affects all aspects of a patient's life, such as their
physical wellbeing, their ability to maintain employment and to form and
maintain social relationships(3). With each relapse, a patient's condition
worsens. This can lead to a loss in cognitive ability, as well as a cycle of
emergency room visits, costly hospitalizations, and visits to the doctor(5).
Moreover, failure to effectively treat and manage schizophrenia increases the
risk of contact with legal authorities or misconduct, sometimes resulting in
diversion to the court system or even jail(5).
    As a complex and often debilitating mental illness, schizophrenia
requires a greater use of hospital beds than any other medical or surgical
condition(6). The societal costs of this disease are estimated at $2.5B in
Ontario (2004)(5), which is particularly striking in relation to its low
prevalence. Moreover, the burden of schizophrenia stretches beyond dollars
affecting the daily lives of individuals and relationships with their families
across the province. New treatments can translate into renewed opportunities
for treatment success, easing the economic, family and personal burden of this

    ABOUT SEROQUEL XR (quetiapine fumarate extended release)

    SEROQUEL XR is the extended-release formulation of SEROQUEL(R). It has
recently been listed on Quebec's provincial drug formulary. AstraZeneca
developed the extended release formulation of SEROQUEL in response to the
needs of healthcare professionals: to simplify the dose escalation regimen to
enable patients to safely reach the therapeutically effective dose range by
the second day of treatment and to allow once-daily dosing.
    It is estimated that more than 25 million people have been treated with
SEROQUEL worldwide since its launch in 1997. In September 2007, SEROQUEL XR
was approved by Health Canada for the treatment of schizophrenia in adult
patients. Beyond schizophrenia, SEROQUEL XR has recently been approved for
bipolar mania.


    AstraZeneca is a leading global pharmaceutical company with an extensive
product portfolio spanning six major therapeutic areas: gastrointestinal,
cardiovascular, infection, neuroscience, oncology, and respiratory.
AstraZeneca's Canadian headquarters and packaging facilities are located in
Mississauga, Ontario, and its state-of-the-art drug discovery centre is based
in Montréal, Québec. For more information, visit the company's Web site at


    1.  Addington D, Bouchard R-H, Goldberg J, Honer B, Malla A, Norman R et
        al. Clinical practice guidelines. Treatment of Schizophrenia. Can J
        Psychiatry 2005; 50:1S-55S.
    2.  "Strengthening Ontario's Future by Investing in Health Care." 2008
        Ontario Budget. (2008).
    3.  A Report on Mental Illnesses. Public Health Agency of Canada.
    4.  Rossler W, Salize HJ, van Os J, Riecher-Rossler A. Size of burden of
        schizophrenia and psychotic disorders. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 2005;
    5.  Goeree R, Farahati F, Burke N, Blackhouse G, O'Reilly D, Pyne J et
        al. The economic burden of schizophrenia in Canada in 2004. Curr Med
        Res Opin 2005; 21:2017-2028.
    6.  "Facts and Figures: Mental Health and Mental Illness in Canada."
        Canadian Mental Health Association Toronto. 30 May 2008

    SEROQUEL(R) and SEROQUEL XR(R) are registered trade-marks of the
    AstraZeneca group of companies.

For further information:

For further information: Stephanie Batcules, AstraZeneca Canada Inc.,
Tel: (905) 615-6849; Mary-Anne Cedrone, Manning Selvage & Lee (MS&L), T: (416)

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