SC Department of Mental Health News Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: John Hutto

Research Explores Ethnic Response To Psychiatric Medicines

Columbia, SC: August 10, 2000 - Psychiatric medications may metabolize differently among ethnic groups, according to researchers at a recent statewide teleconference presented by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH) as part of its ongoing training in cultural competency.

The purpose of the training is to ensure that all SCDMH clinical staff as well as non-clinical staff understand how cultural differences should be considered when treating people diagnosed with a mental illness.

Samuel Okpaku, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said that different ethnic groups' bodies may not metabolize psychiatric medications the same way. He noted that the foods eaten, other medications taken (including folk medicine) and family and friends' reactions may also influence how medicine may affect a person and should be taken into consideration by clinical staff.

Jeanette Jerrell, Ph.D., professor of neuropsychiatry at the USC School of Medicine, presented research from several national studies that indicated that African Americans diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder, depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorder react differently to certain psychiatric medications than do other ethnic groups that were studied.

Dr. Jerrell also pointed to South Carolina research that indicated that among the new antipsychotic medicines currently in use, Prolixin and Zyprexa, when taken by African Americans, were the best predictors of improvement in psychotic symptoms and functioning.

According to David Rosin, M.D., deputy director for SCDMH Clinical Services, " For us to provide the best care possible to our diverse client base, we must have access to the most current research and the latest information. These studies in ethnopharmacology help to provide us the tools necessary for effective assessment and treatment of a variety of psychiatric disorders."

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