MEDI-CAL: New Antipsychotic Drug Added To Formulary
The California Department of Health Services has added the antipsychotic medication Seroquel to the Medi-Cal formulary without prior authorization. The action was made possible by language contained in the state's 1997-1998 budget that requires the Medi-Cal program to change the way it makes medications available to those who need them. The language eliminates Medi-Cal's policy of treating mental illnesses with older medications before newer drugs can be prescribed. The former policy required Medi-Cal to review and approve every prescription for a newer antipsychotic, and Medi-Cal often required two treatment failures on the older medication before it would approve the newer drugs. The new policy allows physicians to immediately prescribe the newest and most effective mental health drugs for psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Last October, DHS made the antipsychotic medications Clozaril, Risperdal and Zyprexa available.
Time For A Change
According to the Mental Health Association of California, there were many treatment failures under the old policy because many patients discontinued their treatment due to side effects or because they believed any treatment would ultimately be unsuccessful based upon the past failures of the older medications. Rusty Selix, executive director of the MHAC, said, "The expanded use of medications like Seroquel will lead to more people getting out of institutions and back to work leading productive lives. This is an affirmation that DHS is continuing to apply its policy. This class of drugs is important and assures consumers with schizophrenia the best medications for treatment of this crippling disease" (release, 4/3).