To the Editor: I was elated to read Dr. Leo Berman's letter (1) in the May 1999 issue about the use of clozapine in new cases of schizophrenia. I have family members with schizophrenia. When my son (the oldest of five children) became ill with schizophrenia in his 21st year, I did everything I could to educate myself. That was 20 years ago, and there wasn't much material for families.
Luckily, we live in Iowa City, Iowa, the home of the University of Iowa and the Clinical Research Center directed by the outstanding researcher Dr. Nancy Andreasen. My son had been ill for eight years when Dr. Andreasen's center became a test site for clozapine. He was enrolled in the clinical trial and responded remarkably well. Once again he could taste food, see colors, and read, and his muscle tone came back. He has not relapsed in the 12 years since he was first given that wonderful medicine. He never once complained about the weekly blood draw. In fact, he looked forward to seeing the nurses, as it was a social event for him. Because the medicine has made him feel better, he has not been resistant to taking it.
My family is in the family study at the Clinical Research Center. There is a history of schizophrenia on my husband's side, and two of our children became ill at age 21. We are grateful to be involved in the study, as it may help others.
As part of the study, each participant receives an MRI scan. I have two 17-year-old granddaughters who are identical twins. Their father had schizophrenia, and they both have shown anomalies on brain scans similar to those found in the brains of people with the diagnosis of schizophrenia. They are not ill at this time. As devastating as this finding has been, it also offers the potential for hope. If indeed one of my beautiful granddaughters begins to show symptoms of the disease that can be so destructive, we will not tolerate the idea that they must have a history of antipsychotic failure before being given clozapine. We will demand that they receive the medicine that has given their uncle his life again. We will demand clozapine as a first-line treatment.
I thank Dr. Berman for his vision.
Ms. Judge resides in Iowa City, Iowa.