The first human trial of a new type of schizophrenia drug has yielded promising results, according to researchers.
Patients treated with the drug showed significant improvement in symptoms and reported fewer side effects than with other anti-psychotic medications they had taken.
The drug is currently known only by its codename – LY2140023 – and is the first new class of schizophrenia medication to be developed in the last ten years.
Unlike current anti-psychotic drugs, which block the uptake of a naturally occurring chemical called dopamine, LY2140023 acts on a different neurotransmitter, called glutamate.
In a double blind clinical trial, a team led by Dr Sandeep Patel gave the drug to 97 patients, while smaller groups were given either olanzipine – a commonly anti-psychotic that targets dopamine – or a placebo.
LY2140023 matched the effectiveness of olanzipine for both ‘positive’ symptoms of schizophrenia such as hallucinations as well as ‘negative’ ones, including lack of interest in life and withdrawal from human contact.
Patients who took the new drug also found they didn’t experience side-effects they associated with dopamine-targeting drugs, such as weight gain, increases in blood fat cells called triglycerides, periodontitis and inflammation of the gums.
The researchers cautioned that this was only a ‘proof-of-concept’ study to see whether the drug held promise in the treatment of schizophrenia, and that more trials to test LY2140023 against other drugs and over long time periods were needed.
Alun Thomas, Deputy Chief Executive of Hafal, the principal Welsh charity for people with severe mental illness and their carers, said: “Hafal believes that the pharmaceutical industry needs to keep working to develop new treatments that have greater effectives and fewer side effects, and we welcome any research that could lead to better treatment for the people who need it.”