Coronavirus and clozapine
We've been getting lots of questions about what impact the coronavirus has for people who require blood tests when taking clozapine. Our advice team have written this blog to help.
What is clozapine?
Clozapine is an antipsychotic medication mainly used to treat people who live with schizophrenia.
You can read our information on ‘Schizophrenia’ by clicking here.
It is used when someone hasn’t responded to treatment with other antipsychotic medications. It is usually only used after 2 or more antipsychotic medications have been tried.
I take clozapine. Why do I need blood tests?
Clozapine can cause your white blood cell numbers to drop. But this is rare. This could mean that you get infections more easily. If you take clozapine, you will need regular blood tests to make sure your white blood cell count is healthy.
How regularly you have blood tests depends on your individual circumstances. Healthcare professionals will decide how often you need blood tests, and how long they remain valid for.
Will I continue to get blood tests during the coronavirus crisis?
You should continue to have your blood tests at your normal intervals during the coronavirus crisis. But healthcare professionals might decide that your blood test remains valid for a longer period during the coronavirus. If they do, you might have less frequent blood tests than normal.
Professionals might give you less frequent blood tests as they might have less staff than normal, because of the coronavirus crisis. But professionals should only decide this if they think you can still take clozapine safely.
Can I continue to be supplied with clozapine if my blood test is no longer valid?
If necessary, healthcare professionals might decide to continue to supply you with clozapine, even if your blood test is no longer valid. They should only do this if the decision meets your specific needs.
They should explain to you why they have made the decision and record it in your patient notes.
Can I still take clozapine if I have symptoms of coronavirus?
If you have symptoms of coronavirus you must self-isolate at home. Coronavirus is known to cause fever, sore throat and cold or flu like symptoms. But these could also be sign that your blood cell counts are low.
The NHS say if you have symptoms, you should contact your mental health team before you take your next dose of clozapine. They will tell you what you should do. Your team might arrange a blood test for you.
You might not be able to get hold of someone from your mental health team. The line might be busy, or it might be the weekend or out of hours. If this happens you can call your GP or NHS 111.
What should I tell healthcare professionals about Clozapine?
You might come into contact with healthcare professionals who deal with physical illness if:
• You have symptoms of coronavirus, or
• If you have another physical health problem.
Be sure to tell these healthcare professionals that:
• You take clozapine for your mental illness,
• Because you take clozapine you have to have regular blood tests,
• You need the blood tests because clozapine can cause your white blood cell numbers to drop, and
• They should contact your mental health team to discuss this. Give them the name and contact details of the person you normally deal with at your mental health team.
If I take clozapine should I ‘shield’ myself?
A few weeks ago, the government said that people who are extremely vulnerable should ‘shield’ themselves.
The government say you are extremely vulnerable if you have a certain medical condition. This doesn’t include having a mental illness and taking clozapine.
The government have now updated their guidance on shielding, so people who shield can have limited contact with others.
Read more about shielding and who the government call extremely vulnerable.
But if you take clozapine you might be at greater risk of getting coronavirus. So, it is a good idea to:
• Get advice from someone at your mental health team or your GP, and
• limit your contact with other people.
Get advice about living with severe mental illness during the coronavirus outbreak.
This blog will be updated as more information becomes available. Last updated 02/06/20