New Schizophrenia Drug Shows Promise
> 9/4/2007 2:29:37 PM

Since Thorazine was developed to treat schizophrenia in 1954, medication for the disorder has focused on regulating dopamine. While many of these drugs are effective, they all come with a high risk of severe side-effects such as tremors and weight-gain. A large portion of psychotic patients stop taking their medication each year because they cannot handle the side-effects, so news this week about a new, gentler type of antipsychotic was greeted with great enthusiasm.

The first hint of a new type of antipsychotic was dropped shortly after PCP hit the streets in the 80s, when scientists noticed the remarkable similarity between the symptoms experienced by PCP abusers and schizophrenics. When Moghaddam and Adams revealed that PCP wrecks its havoc by blocking glutamate receptors, Dr. Darryle Schoepp zeroed in on that amino acid in his search for a new antipsychotic. Some others had the same idea, but Dr. Schoepp had the perseverance to work for years and the fortunate intuition to focus on glutamate in the prefrontal cortex, which manages personality development.

The promising study that Dr. Schoepp presented this year at the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research is based on a 200-person clinical trial. The glutamate regulator that he created, provisionally named LY2140023, ameliorated psychotic symptoms with no noticeable side-effects. If it is true that this drug can achieve the same result as previous antipsychotics but without any downside, then it will quickly dominate the market. While larger tests are needed before the drug can even be submitted to the FDA for approval, the results of this first test will undoubtedly open up new avenues of research. Now that it has been established that glutamate regulators can combat schizophrenia, it is only a matter of time before a whole new array of drugs reach the public.

Despite the excitement over this discovery, some experts are hesitant to accept the results at face value because of the spotty history of the company that funded the drug research. Eli Lilly is one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companiesóresponsible for massive successes like Prozacóbut it has been the target of heavy criticism for deceptively minimizing potential problems with its drugs. Dr. Shoepp's latest report shows immense promise, and hopefully other researchers will step up quickly to confirm or solidify his results. Lilly's history of selective reporting may make some skeptical, but with increased support this positive momentum could lead to real change.

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