New drug for schizophrenia
Patients with schizophrenia fill more hospital beds in the United States than patients with any other illness. Two out of 10 people who suffer from this disease attempt suicide, and half succeed.
If you or a family member are among the 3 million Americans who suffer from schizophrenia, you’ll be delighted to know that a new antipsychotic drug, Seroquel, tested by Health Science Center researchers, was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In clinical studies Seroquel has proven to be equally effective on both the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia—positive symptoms include hallucinations and delusions, and negative symptoms include lack of speech, expressionless or unemotional demeanor, and thinking deficits such as poor memory, problems carrying out tasks to achieve a goal and an inability to focus attention.
"The distinct feature of Seroquel is that it causes few unwanted side effects, which was one of the major problems with older antipsychotic drugs, such as Haldol and Thorazine," said Alexander L. Miller, MD, professor of psychiatry at the Health Science Center. "These side effects, called extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS), include muscle dystonia (stiffness and tightness), Parkinson-like shaking, shuffling gait, restlessness and akathisia (inability to sit still). Most drugs that have EPS side effects also cause long-term tardive dyskinesia (uncontrollable movements of the tongue and mouth).
"Seroquel hasn’t been out long enough to know if it will cause tardive dyskinesia," Dr. Miller continued, "but because it causes so little EPS, we are hopeful that it will be benign."
The Health Science Center has done four different studies on Seroquel, two inpatient studies at the San Antonio State Hospital and two outpatient studies at the University Health Clinic. Dr. Miller is the state hospital’s founding director of clinical research and with Larry Ereshefsky, PharmD, professor of pharmacology, and others, has led studies of several new drugs for schizophrenia.
"Seroquel is not a miracle drug," added Dr. Miller, "but for some patients, there is evidence that it helps. We’ve certainly seen patients who didn’t do well on any other antipsychotic drugs who did very well on Seroquel. We’ve had some outstanding successes."
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