Charities fall out over drug use

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Medical Correspondent

A bitter row has erupted between two leading mental health charities, Sane and Mind, over the use of powerful anti-psychotic drugs to treat schizophrenia and other illnesses.

In a letter to the Independent from Sane, co-signed by seven leading psychiatrists, Mind is accused of an "emotive fund-raising exercise" focusing on "lethal" side- effects, which, Sane says, will terrify sick, vulnerable people and their families.

Sane claims a manic depressive is refusing drugs after reading a fund- raising circular Mind recently sent to supporters. "Three years ago, his brother, who suffered schizophrenia, stopped taking his medication and became so ill that within weeks he killed himself," today's letter says. Its co-signatories include Professor Anthony Clare, and Professor Fiona Caldicott, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Sane acknowledges the drugs can have severe side-effects, but adds they can give a quality of life to mentally-ill people that they might not otherwise have.

Judi Clements, Mind's national director, last night said Sane "wholly misrepresents Mind's recent fund-raising appeal".

The Mind circular is a plea for funding for a campaign to tighten "flexible" rules allowing doctors and psychiatrists to prescribe the drugs. It says "one person dies every week due to prescribed neuroleptic [anti- psychotic] drugs ... Imagine the outcry if this happened to people NOT labelled mentally ill?"

The relationship between Mind, the long-established National Association for Mental Health, and Sane, founded in 1986, has always been sensitive. Sane believes mental illness is a biological disorder; Mind says there are many root causes, including social problems.

Sane's co-founder and chief executive, Marjorie Wallace, denied this was inter-charity rivalry. "You would not get people of this eminence signing the letter if that was the case." Letters, page 18