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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 September 2007, 23:17 GMT 00:17 UK
Schizophrenia trials 'promising'
There are many different drug treatments for schizophrenia
The first human trial of a new schizophrenia drug has yielded promising results, report scientists.

What sets apart the experimental drug from all other antipsychotics is its target in the brain - glutamate receptors rather than dopamine.

Patients treated with "LY2140023" showed improvements in symptoms and few side effects.

Experts said the Nature Medicine study, by drug firm Eli Lilly, was promising and should prompt further trials.

We are pleased that there are promising results from this research that may lead to the development of a third generation of drug treatments for schizophrenia
Paul Corry of Rethink

Schizophrenia affects around 1% of the population - as many as are affected by diabetes.

Schizophrenia can be thought of in terms of experiencing episodes during which reality is perceived differently.

This might mean hallucinating - seeing or hearing things that others do not - or having delusions where a person has unfounded beliefs that they are perhaps being persecuted or that they are famous.

There are many antipsychotic drugs available to help alleviate these symptoms, but patients can experience serious side effects such a violent tremor, similar to that experienced by Parkinson's disease sufferers.

For some, the side effects are so distressing that they may stop taking their medicine and risk a relapse.

Future hope

Dr Sandeep Patil and colleagues hope that a drug targeting the chemical glutamate and its NMDA receptor directly could be a credible alternative.

Experts have long known that glutamate-mediated nerve cell communication plays a role in schizophrenia.

And earlier work in rodents by Dr Patil's team showed drugs, like LY2140023, which act on these signals appear to work as antipsychotics.

Their latest trial in 118 patients suggests the same is true in humans.

Over the course of four weeks, patients receiving the experimental drug fared as well as those taking conventional olanzapine.

Paul Corry of the mental health charity Rethink said: "We are pleased that there are promising results from this research that may lead to the development of a third generation of drug treatments for schizophrenia.

"We want to see much higher levels of investment from the pharmaceutical industry in research in drug treatments for schizophrenia that reduce side effects whilst still being effective at combating the symptoms."


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