Drug Development and Schizophrenia: Where To Go Next?

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Coping with schizophrenia can be challenging.  It is a complicated disorder that manifests itself in a variety of ways and degrees of severity.  Significant advances have been made over the years in the development of drugs to treat and manage the positive and negative symptoms of this disorder. Nonetheless, there are number of areas where there are clearly aspects of this disorder that need further attention.  Medical research into schizophrenia, as well as a variety of ongoing and planned schizophrenia clinical trials, are attempting to address some of these unmet needs.  Below are some examples of areas where there are unmet medical needs as they relate to the development of drugs to treat schizophrenia.

  • Not everyone responds to a given (antipsychotic) drug in an entirely satisfactory manner. It may be necessary for your physician to try more than one type of medication before finding the right one or dose that will adequately control your specific symptoms.  Sometimes this can be a long and frustrating process.  New drugs that can more reliably alleviate the symptoms of schizophrenia are still needed.
  • Related to the above, some people appear to be “treatment resistant”. New drugs need to be developed that can reliably manage such patients.
  • While, in most cases, treatment of the positive symptoms of psychosis (e.g., hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia) are the main drivers in the medical management of schizophrenia, drugs are also needed that can better manage some of the negative symptoms of psychosis as well (e.g., lethargy, apathy, and social withdrawal).
  • People frequently experience a number of unpleasant and/or unwanted side effects while taking antipsychotic medications. In some cases the duration and/or magnitude of these side effects can be sufficient to compel an individual to either not continue to take their medication as prescribed, or worse, to stop taking the medication in question entirely.  The issue here is one of “compliance”.  It is a very real problem for both patients and the physicians who treat them.  It is critical that once a medication is found that does control an individual’s symptoms, that the individual continue to consistently take the medication as it has been prescribed.  If symptoms reappear or side effects emerge that re unacceptable or have not been anticipated, it is important to alert your physician so that appropriate adjustments can be made.
  • It is not uncommon for people to experience a relapse at some point during the course of their treatment. While there are available long-acting injectable forms of some antipsychotic medications, there is still a need for additional alternatives.
  • Many individuals with schizophrenia also experience difficulties in thinking, concentrating and efficiently processing information. Drugs are needed that can better address these cognitive issues.

As alluded to in the opening paragraph of this article, schizophrenia can be a very troubling and disruptive disorder that can have far reaching effects on a person’s ability to effectively interact with his/her environment.  Although there are admittedly limitations in the arsenal of drugs available to physicians who treat people with schizophrenia, the disorder is generally treatable.  Nonetheless, medical research needs to continue to work towards identifying better, more effective and safer drugs to treat this disorder.  If you or someone you know does not appear to be experiencing the degree of relief he or she desires, one option may be to consider participating in one of the many schizophrenia clinical trials that are currently being conducted at a medical facility near you.  A listing and description of the trials currently being conducted throughout the United States can be found at such sites as CenterWatch.com or ClinicalTrials.gov.  You can also refine your search to a specific geographical location near you.  For example, for those people living in the New York City Metropolitan Area, you can also find where such studies are being conducted by searching the keywords schizophrenia clinical research studies NYC.

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