Photo of woman looking out of a window, Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

30 March 2020

Mental Health and the Coronavirus

An impaired immune system is often experienced by mito patients, and so coronavirus poses is a very serious risk.  Many patients and their families have already been self-isolating for some time. But the coronavirus doesn’t just threaten our physical health, self-isolation and stress have the potential to damage our mental health as well.

Your mental health is as important as your physical health

The coronavirus is causing patients and their families concern. What are the implications of catching COVID-19? How can I avoid it? Will I be able to get prescriptions fulfilled? What to do if other symptoms require medical assistance? What is the risk of going to hospital? How will I get groceries? How will I pay my rent/mortgage if my job is compromised? All of these worries, coupled with self-isolation itself can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress and depression, to name just a few.

Virtual support

IMP has a closed Facebook support group, many of our members have their own support groups, and there are others that focus on specific types of mito. Sometimes, sharing fears and talking to others who understand, can really help.

Some of our members offer a telephone and/or email helpline, visit their websites to find out more. IMP also offers support via email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). 

Dealing with Stress*

  • Talk to someone – access a Facebook support group, pick up the phone, or chat to a friend via video.
  • Keep moving – even limited exercise can make a difference. There are lots of online exercise classes from gentle yoga and stretching, to Zumba dance classes, PE for kids and more strenuous work outs. Search on Facebook or You Tube for something that interests you. Walking up and down stairs, jogging on the spot, or doing weights using tins of beans are all activities that don’t require any equipment and can be tailored to your level of fitness.
  • Challenge unhelpful thoughts, the way we think can impact the way we feel – watch a short video created by the British National Health System (NHS).
  • Find something positive – everyday think about three things that you are grateful for, ie the sun is shining, I am doing everything I can to stay safe from COVID-19, I am spending time with my child/parent/spouse.
  • Create a healthy sleeping pattern – everyone’s sleep needs are different and stress can negatively impact on good sleep. Keep a pad of paper by your bed and write down your worries - putting them on paper can relieve your mind and make it easier to sleep.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend watching/listening to the news. The situation is changing rapidly around the world, and with 24 hour news channels and social media, it is easy to focus on the worse case situations.
  • Make time to do something you enjoy:
    • Read a book – some online book stores have made their books and audiobooks free during the pandemic
    • Draw, paint or get crafty
    • Meditate – there are lots of free online mediation sessions
    • Try creative writing – there is a story in all of us
    • Do a puzzle
    • Learn a new language – google online language courses
    • Learn about history, art or different cultures via museums’ websites 


Mental Health Support 

Many mental health organisations are offering advice and support related to Coronavirus, some examples are listed below, google ‘coronavirus and mental health’ to find out what support is available in your country: 

The National Health Service in the UK: Every Mind Matters

Mental Health Europe

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, USA


During the coronavirus pandemic, it is important that as a community, we come together to support each other – together we are stronger.



*Based on information from Every Mind Matters




Image of pill

16 March 2020

List of Medicines to be Used with Caution in Primary Mitochondrial Disease

IMP is aware that the recently published updated List of Medicines to be Used with Caution in Primary Mitochondrial Disease has caused some confusion within the mitochondrial disease patient community. 

Elja van der Veer, Chair of IMP, stated, “We are grateful for the feedback we have received from patients around the world directly and via our member organisations. We updated the List to ensure that the latest insights and new clinical and scientific evidence was considered. There are some drugs that previously had a blanket restriction on them. This has resulted in some patients not gaining access to them, when in fact they would have a positive impact on their health. The evidence that was reviewed by the experts demonstrated that although some drugs cause an adverse reaction in some patients, they can be beneficial to others and should not be labelled harmful to all patients with primary mitochondrial disease. We recommend that patients speak to their treating specialist who will be able to advise them on their individual case.”

The List was compiled by 16 independent international experts in mitochondrial medicine, including clinicians, pharmacologists and scientists, who reviewed scientific data regarding 50 drugs/drug groups. The experts used a rigorous process combining a scientific method, evidence-based research and the latest peer-reviewed literature to reach a consensus on all the drugs on the original list, ensuring they were able to accurately identify drugs which had the potential to cause mitochondrial toxicity as opposed to those which had been previously listed based on patient case reports which could not be linked directly to their mitochondrial disease.

No pharmaceutical companies were involved at any stage (during the process or from a financial perspective).

It is crucial to remember that people can respond differently to drugs and side effects can occur in anyone and are not necessarily related to primary mitochondrial disease. 

The List has been produced as a guideline for patients, carers and non-specialist doctors. Patients should seek advice from their medical specialist, who will consider their personal medical history. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Why are some drugs that have previously been deemed ‘unsafe’, now reclassified as ‘safe’?

The most up-to-date evidence-based data indicates that some drugs, previously thought to be ‘unsafe’, actually benefit some patients. It is vital that these drugs are not dismissed or withheld from patients who need them.

Patients should seek guidance from their medical specialist, who will take their individual case into account before prescribing any drug. All drugs included in the List should be used with caution. 

Should I use a drug that has been categorised safe, if I have had an adverse reaction in the past?

Patients who have an adverse reaction to a medicine are advised to consult their clinician, even if the medicine has been categorised 'safe' for them on the list.

Can one drug have a different effect on people with the same type of mitochondrial disease?

Yes! Every patient reacts differently to medication – seek advice that is relevant to you and do not rely on anecdotal evidence, even if it's from other patients with the same disorder.

Should my medical specialist follow this List?

The List has been produced as a guideline for patients, carers and non-specialist doctors. Patients should seek advice from their medical specialist, who will consider their personal medical history before prescribing any drugs.

Were pharmaceutical companies involved in the new List? 

No pharmaceutical companies were involved at any stage (during the process or from a financial perspective).

Who were the experts that updated the List?

The following clinicians, pharmacologists and scientists from six different countries produced the list. They are experts in mitochondrial medicine and represent many of the world’s leading clinical and research institutes.

Maaike C. De Vries, Shamima Rahman, Laurence Bindoff, Michelangelo Mancuso, Gráinne S. Gorman, David A. Brown, Mitchell E. Allen, Amel Karaa, Nandaki Keshavan, Costanza Lamperti, Robert McFarland, Yi Shiau Ng, Mar O'Callaghan, Robert D. S. Pitceathly, Frans G. M. Russel, Kristin N. Varhaug and Tom J. J. Schirris.

See reference article for more background on the experts.


Access List of Medicines to be Used with Caution in Primary Mitochondrial Disease

Washing hands

13 March 2020

Coronavirus and mitochondrial disease

A message from the Chair of IMP...

To our global mito community,

We know that the rapidly changing coronavirus pandemic is deeply concerning for the mito community around the world. It can be hard to keep up with continually changing guidelines of the public health authorities. But one thing we know is that COVID-19 is a threat to everyone, and affects the daily life of everybody. 

Many of our mito warriors go through more in one day, than most people can imagine in a lifetime, and each and every day their families support them with love and kindness. Coronavirus is another challenge to face, another hurdle to overcome, and by coming together we can help each other through to the other side.

As a community, together, we can face this new challenge. We will share experiences, tips, advice and perhaps most importantly, hope.

Please take care of yourself and each other. Keep well, together we are strong!

Elja van der Veer
Chair/President of IMP


Advice for people affected by mito.

A number of our members have produced guidelines regarding coronavirus. These guidelines are being regularly updated, so please check their websites and social media feeds regularly to ensure you have the latest advice. 

We recommend following your local government advice and speaking with your medical practitioner if you experience any of the symptoms of COVID-19.


Read advice from:


Muscular Dystrophy UK

Spierziekten Nederland

The Lily Foundation

United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation


Coronavirus Infographic

Infographic: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control


Rare Disease Day

29 February 2020

Rare Disease Day aims to raise awareness amongst the general public and decision makers about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives.

Patient organisations around the world mark Rare Disease Day with awareness raising activities.

There are many types of mitochondrial disease, all of them rare diseases. By coming together, our voices are stronger.

Find out what activities are taking place around the world, how you can get involved and from the day at the Rare Disease Day website.


February 2020

At the initiative of IMP a group of specialists, researchers and clinicians carried out a study into the safety of medicines in mitochondrial patients. The existing information needed a major update due to more scientific insights and clinical experience. IMP was convinced that this update needed to be based on a thorough scientific study. The study took place on an international level and with input from different disciplines in order to ensure a broadly based scientific outcome.

A publication in the Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease (JIMD) was realized. And now a special text for patients and their families based on this is available.

IMP is grateful to all those specialists who were willing to dedicate their time and knowledge to this subject. The final result is of great importance to many mitochondrial patients and their families.

For the scientific publication click here.

For the text and tables for patients click here.

© 2023 Int. Mito Patients