A team from mental health charity St Andrew’s Healthcare has challenged healthcare standards body the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to revise its guidance on treating women with severe borderline personality disorder (BPD), following the results of a study.

The study on the benefits of clozapine as a treatment for women with severe BPD, undertaken by a research team led by Dr Marco Picchioni at St Andrew’s Healthcare, will be published in the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, the journal of the American Academy of Clinical Psychiatrists. 

The research team at St Andrew’s Healthcare has already challenged NICE to revisit its guidance on the treatment of severe BPD, and publication in this peer-reviewed journal adds credence to their claim that clozapine is a viable and effective treatment.

St Andrew’s Healthcare’s chief medical officer, Dr Fiona Mason, said: “Borderline personality disorder affects around 1 person in 50 and can lead to extreme mood changes, and impulsive and harmful behaviour. When seriously affected, people are often unable to work and may need frequent or lengthy hospital admissions. The personal and social costs of this disorder can be extreme.

“Although clozapine is more commonly used in illnesses like schizophrenia, we have found significant improvements in symptoms, and patients have reported an improved sense of wellbeing. The study took place with patients at St Andrew’s over an 8-year period and we are now planning a large multi-centre trial that will allow the clinical benefits to be demonstrated more fully to inform both UK and international treatment guidelines for this very serious condition.”

Professor Philip Sugarman, St Andrew’s Healthcare’s chief executive officer, and colleagues in the St Andrew’s Academic Centre have recently called for reform of medicines research for the needs of specific mental health groups. They have proposed that careful research, undertaken with the full knowledge and consent of patients, will help to advance our understanding of how to help people with complex mental health needs.