Magazine article Drug Topics

Coming: Host of Schizophrenia Drugs with Lesser Side Effects

Magazine article Drug Topics

Coming: Host of Schizophrenia Drugs with Lesser Side Effects

Article excerpt

New drugs for schizophrenia may start appearing in the next 18-24 months. At the American Psychiatric Association convention, held recently in Miami, that's what researchers predicted, just as they also acknowledged the impossibility of forecasting Food & Drug Administration approvals firmly. But the researchers were solidly enthusiastic about the new drugs for this frequently undertreated psychosis.

The drugs are particularly attractive because they produce the highly troublesome extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS) at a rate similar to that of placebo, said Daniel Casey, M.D. "We're at the front end of a very enriching experience for years to come," he added. Casey is a professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland.

Widespread use of the new drugs will occur quickly, because current drugs produce only a partial response in approximately 85% of schizophrenic patients, said Carol Tamminga, M.D., a psychiatry professor at the University of Maryland medical school in Baltimore.

The new drugs' lower rate of acute side effects will improve compliance and generally make schizophrenia treatment easier for primary care physicians. Already, the move toward fewer hospitalizations and more gatekeeper/community care makes primary care physicians more likely to see undiagnosed schizophrenics and become involved in such patients' long-term care, researchers said.

One bet for first approval, according to researchers, is sertindole (Abbott Laboratories). How well does it perform? One of the first analyses of phase III research showed that almost half of patients on haloperidol experienced EPS, compared with less than one-fourth of patients on even the highest sertindole dose of 24 mg/day; 20 mg of sertindole was also effective and produced EPS in 14% of patients. Placebo patients had a 17% rate, noted S. Charles Schulz, M.D., psychiatry department chairman at Case Western Reserve University medical school in Cleveland. …

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