Schizophrenia Research Forum - A Catalyst for Creative Thinking

Children and Teens Gain Weight Quickly on Second-generation Antipsychotics

29 October 2009. Within about 11 weeks of starting treatment with second-generation antipsychotic drugs, children and teens gain a startling amount of excess body weight, according to a study published in JAMA on October 28. Researchers Christoph Correll of Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, and colleagues further link some of these drugs to metabolic disturbances that could burden these young people with heart disease later on. The findings, together with those from the recent TEOSS (Treatment of Early-Onset Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders) Study, seem to argue against the unfettered use of these drugs in treating various psychiatric disorders in young people.

The supposed superiority of second-generation over first-generation antipsychotics put them front and center in the treatment of schizophrenia. However, recent evidence in adults suggests that most of these second-generation, or “atypical,” antipsychotics work no better than their older, “typical” cousins (see SRF related news story; SRF news story; SRF related news story).

Published last year, the TEOSS trial, one of the few randomized, controlled comparisons of medicines for treating early-onset schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, found risperidone and olanzapine, two second-generation drugs, no better at curbing symptoms in youth than the first-generation antipsychotic molindone (see Sikich et al., 2008; Frazier et al., 2007; McClellan et al., 2007). Both second-generation drugs caused more weight gain than molindone did. In fact, subjects in the olanzapine group gained 6.1 kilograms in only eight weeks, prompting the safety board overseeing the study to halt enrollment into that study arm. Olanzapine also increased lipid and insulin levels.

Starting with a clean slate
Unlike the TEOSS study, the one by Correll and colleagues examined only patients who had little to no history of taking antipsychotic drugs. In an interview with SRF, Correll said that their focus on this group came about almost by accident. They had been studying weight gain in children and adolescents who were taking antipsychotic drugs when they realized that those who gained the most weight had been antipsychotic-naïve when they entered the study. This led the researchers to focus on patients with no more than a week’s experience using antipsychotics.

The 272 study participants ranged from four to 19 years old. They included 82 with schizophrenia spectrum, 130 with mood spectrum, and 60 with disruptive or aggressive behavior spectrum disorder. All received treatment with a second-generation antipsychotic.

Instead of randomly assigning treatments, Correll and colleagues let patients’ clinicians decide which drug to prescribe. They chose this approach to maximize generalizability to the real world. Consequently, their sample included patients who were taking other medications, although patients taking more than one antipsychotic drug were excluded.

Too few subjects received ziprasidone to study. The analyses, then, looked at 41 subjects on aripiprazole, 45 on olanzapine, 36 on quetiapine, and 135 on risperidone. An additional 15 subjects either refused treatment or stopped taking their medication within four weeks, but still completed follow-up assessments. They served as the comparison group.

The researchers compared body weight and metabolic outcomes in the different treatment groups using an intent-to-treat approach. The comparison group gained little to no weight during the study. In contrast, after a median of 11 weeks of treatment, subjects taking olanzapine gained, on average, 8.5 kilograms (95 percent confidence interval = 7.4-9.7 kg; for pounds, multiply by 2.2). Weight gain for the other second-generation drugs ranged from 6.1 kilograms (95 percent CI = 4.9-7.2) with quetiapine to 5.3 (95 percent CI = 4.8-5.9) with risperidone and 4.4 (95 percent CI = 3.7-5.2) with aripiprazole. In fact, over half of those on antipsychotic drugs gained more than 7 percent of their body weight.

Not surprisingly, as the pounds piled up, subjects’ waists grew, and they amassed more body fat. Correll and colleagues write, “Altogether, 10 percent to 36 percent of patients transitioned to overweight or obese status within 11 weeks.”

On top of that, the study found metabolic changes. In youngsters on olanzapine or quetiapine, the researchers found significant increases in cholesterol, triglycerides, non-high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and the ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol. They also saw evidence of poor glucose metabolism in those on olanzapine and increased triglycerides in those taking risperidone. In contrast, the metabolic measures remained stable in the aripiprazole and comparison groups. This may seem to make aripiprazole the winner, but a recent meta-analysis found the drug less efficacious than olanzapine (see SRF related news story).

These findings of weight gain and metabolic problems in young people treated with second-generation antipsychotics support similar findings from smaller studies in young people (see, e.g., Sikich et al., 2008; Fraguas et al., 2008). They warn of an unhealthy future for many of these patients. “Cardiometabolic adverse effects, such as age-inappropriate weight gain, obesity, hypertension, and lipid and glucose abnormalities, are particularly problematic during development because they predict adult obesity, the metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular morbidity, and malignancy,” write Correll and colleagues. Even first-generation antipsychotic drugs have been tied to greater cardiac risk (see SRF related news story).

A wake-up call
An editorial in the same issue of JAMA, by Christopher Varley and Jon McClellan of Seattle Children’s Hospital in Washington underscores the importance of these findings. They write, “The magnitude of weight gain is particularly concerning, as is the implication that metabolic adverse events may be underestimated in studies in which participants have had prior atypical antipsychotic exposure.” Correll told SRF that the placebo-controlled trial results that companies submit to gain approval to sell their drugs rely on patients with chronic psychiatric disorders. These patients have likely already gained considerable weight from past antipsychotic drug use.

In light of the side effects, Correll and colleagues call for restraint in the use of second-generation antipsychotics. Varley and McClellan echo that sentiment: “Given the risk for weight gain and long-term risk for cardiovascular and metabolic problems, the widespread and increasing use of atypical antipsychotic medications in children and adolescents should be reconsidered.” The latter note that the use of these drugs has spiraled even as controversy has erupted over the growing number of children and teens diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “Atypical antipsychotic medication use in pediatric bipolar disorder is justified primarily based on the adult literature,” without evidence of “continuity” between pediatric and adult-onset forms of the disease, they write.

The results suggest a need to consider less risky medications as well as non-drug options. However, Correll noted, despite the risks of second-generation antipsychotics, these drugs have brought stability to the lives of many people with severe mental illness. As a result, some families are unwilling to try a different drug once they find one that helps. He said that clinicians should educate them about side effects and lifestyle changes, such as exercise and shunning liquid calories, that could lessen their impact.

Correll thinks that clinicians should not only monitor height and weight at each visit, but also test for the “silent, unseen side effects” that may lead to cardiovascular disease. He and his colleagues recommend obtaining fasting blood work for glucose and lipids at baseline, three months, and every six months thereafter. Until researchers discover better drugs, he said, “We’re between a rock and a hard place.”—Victoria L. Wilcox.

Reference:
Correll CU, Manu P, Olshanskiy V, Napolitano B, Kane JM, Malhotra AK. Cardiometabolic risk of second-generation antipsychotic medications during first-time use in children and adolescents. JAMA. 2009 October 28;302(16):1765-73. Abstract

Varley CK, McClellan J. Implications of marked weight gain associated with atypical antipsychotic medications in children and adolescents. JAMA. 2009 October 28;302(16):1811-12. Abstract

Comments on News and Primary Papers
Comment by:  William Carpenter, SRF Advisor (Disclosure)
Submitted 29 October 2009
Posted 29 October 2009

It has been known for years that some—not necessarily all—second-generation drugs have severe metabolic side effects. These effects are common, not rare. Metabolic changes induced will increase risk of an early death substantially unless persons receiving these treatments are immune to effects observed in the general population. In fact, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and pulmonary disease are already associated with early death of persons with schizophrenia where mortality rates are already two to six times standard mortality rates (see SRF related news story). The fact that these populations have increased risk from other lifestyle problems (e.g., diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and stress) increases the need for clinicians to minimize risk from iatrogenic sources. The importance of the report by Correll et al. is not based on surprising new data. Rather, it is the ability to bring extensive attention to this problem to the broad medical field and the public.

The increased safety and efficacy of second-generation antipsychotic drugs was debunked before the turn of the century, and the value of the CATIE and CUtLASS studies was more in their ability to spark the public discussion than in surprising new data (Lieberman et al., 2005; Jones et al., 2006). In young people, the antipsychotic drugs with serious metabolic adverse profiles should rarely be considered. Clozapine for some childhood-onset schizophrenia patients may be one of the exceptions. Antipsychotic drugs are usually prescribed with long-term use in mind. If a clinician considers this essential therapy—as it often is in schizophrenia, less so in bipolar disorder, where effective and safer drugs are available—selection of compounds based on safety and tolerability is essential. In this regard, prescribing drugs such as olanzapine is very difficult to defend. The importance of this report being published in JAMA is underscored by the reports of Lilly directing representatives to market olanzapine to primary care providers who are less aware of the metabolic effects (see, e.g., Attorney General’s Settlement).

View all comments by William Carpenter

Comments on Related News


Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Daniel Weinberger, SRF Advisor
Submitted 18 October 2005
Posted 18 October 2005

The Lieberman et al. CATIE study is a landmark large-scale clinical trial of antipsychotic drug therapy and will generate considerable discussion in the coming months. It offers important insights about real-world treatment of individuals with the diagnosis of schizophrenia, in the sense of typical practices in clinics around the country and the clinical experience of many practitioners. It probably comes as no surprise that the response to available antipsychotic agents is suboptimal and that differences between drugs are not dramatic in many cases.

One of the questions that comes to my mind about the results is whether and to what degree they are generalizable. Do the results of this study accurately characterize the effects of these drugs across the spectrum of patients with chronic schizophrenia who are treated with them? In other words, are the patients in the CATIE trial representative of the patients with chronic schizophrenia who are in need of these medications? I believe there are several indicators to suggest that they may not be. First, of the subjects in this trial, most of whom (75 percent) were male, 40 percent had been or were married. Second, the mean age at first antipsychotic treatment was 26 years. Third, 30 percent of the subjects were on no medication when they entered the trial. These are all somewhat atypical characteristics in my experience, especially for a predominantly male sample.

In the NIMH schizophrenia genetic study that I direct, we have extensively evaluated over 600 subjects with schizophrenia from around the country. In our sample, the mean age at first antipsychotic treatment is 21 and the ever-married rate is 15 percent, and our sample is one-third female. Moreover, less than 10 percent of our sample is unmedicated at the time that they are evaluated. The finding that a mean dose of 20 mg of perphenazine was as effective as other medications also is somewhat surprising in my experience, as having used this drug for many years, I have rarely seen chronic, actively symptomatic patients respond well without dosing around 32 milligrams and above. Is it possible that the CATIE trial inadvertently enrolled patients more in the schizophrenia spectrum end of the distribution of patients receiving these drugs who may tend not to show as clear benefit? Or maybe the size and breadth of the CATIE trial obscured the signal from the more classic patient with schizophrenia for whom antipsychotic treatment is essential.

It will be interesting to see whether other academic schizophrenia centers concur with the demographics of my experience as noted above or those of CATIE. Multicenter studies—and CATIE involved 57 centers each contributing relatively small samples over a 2-year period—are susceptible to dilution effects and to the possibility that the sample is clinically "noisy." It will be interesting to see, when data analyses from the next stages appear, whether differences are found in the results from different centers who participated in the trial. Will CATIE have told the story of how these drugs work in patients who receive them, or will it have failed to identify the signal from the noise?

View all comments by Daniel Weinberger

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Scott Hemby
Submitted 19 October 2005
Posted 19 October 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  David Lewis, SRF Advisor
Submitted 19 October 2005
Posted 19 October 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Max Schubert
Submitted 19 October 2005
Posted 19 October 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

I also have not seen the response at that dose of perphenazine and even the atypical antipsychotics in chronic schizophrenics. In fact, the only medication that seemed to have an adequate "real-life" dose was olanzapine.

View all comments by Max Schubert

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Iulian Iancu
Submitted 20 October 2005
Posted 20 October 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

It seems that the doses used are not equivalent, and the researchers have used somewhat lower doses of perphenazine and risperidone (in favor of olanzapine). Thus, it is obvious that perphenazine and risperidone have showed smaller efficacy.

View all comments by Iulian Iancu

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Xiang Zhang
Submitted 20 October 2005
Posted 21 October 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

There is evidence that the Chinese traditional medicines may be an alternative approach in the treatment of schizophrenia. Our recent studies indicate that the extraction of gingko biloba may increase the effectiveness of antipsychotic drugs, but reduce their side effects. This finding may provide a new clue to develop a novel therapeutic drug for treatment of schizophrenia.

References:
1. Zhang XY, Zhou DF, Zhang PY, Wu GY, Su JM, Cao LY. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of extract of Ginkgo biloba added to haloperidol in treatment-resistant patients with schizophrenia. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2001; 62(11):878-83. Abstract

2. Zhang XY, Zhou DF, Su JM, Zhang PY. The effect of extract of ginkgo biloba added to haloperidol on superoxide dismutase in inpatients with chronic schizophrenia. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology 2001;21(1):85-88. Abstract

View all comments by Xiang Zhang

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Alonso Montoya
Submitted 21 October 2005
Posted 21 October 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Alexander Miller
Submitted 21 October 2005
Posted 21 October 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Marvin Swartz
Submitted 26 October 2005
Posted 26 October 2005

Reply to Dr. Weinberger's questions about the generalizability of the CATIE sample, by Marvin Swartz, for the CATIE investigators
As CATIE investigators, we have been mindful of concerns about the generalizability of the CATIE sample. In response to a similar concern, our colleague Jeffrey Swanson at Duke compared CATIE participants to a quasi-random sample of 1,413 patients enrolled in the Schizophrenia Care and Assessment Program (SCAP), an observational, non-interventional study of schizophrenia treatment in usual care settings in the United States. The two samples were similar in demographic characteristics, e.g., gender (70 percent male in SCAP, 74 percent male in CATIE), age (mean age = 43 years in SCAP, mean age = 41 years in CATIE), and education (36 percent of SCAP participants had a high school education and 28 percent attended college; in CATIE these percentages were 35 percent and 39 percent, respectively). The CATIE study had a lower proportion of participants from racial minority backgrounds (40 percent vs. 54 percent). The samples also resembled each other in clinical characteristics. Nearly one-third of the patients in both studies had recently been hospitalized. The CATIE sample had slightly higher average scores on psychotic symptom severity than the SCAP patients (mean PANSS total score = 75 vs. 71), and also slightly higher scores on functioning and quality of life (mean Heinrichs-Carpenter QLS score = 63 vs. 57) (Haya Ascher-Svanum, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, Eli Lilly and Company; personal communication). These similarities provide some confidence that CATIE’s RCT design did not result in a biased selection of patients.

Thanks for your comments on the CATIE study.

View all comments by Marvin Swartz

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  William Carpenter, SRF Advisor (Disclosure)
Submitted 26 October 2005
Posted 26 October 2005

The antipsychotic drugs mainly treat psychosis (in contrast to cognition impairments and primary negative symptoms). In the CATIE study, the drugs tested share the same mechanism of action (D2 antagonism). Clozapine aside, the second-generation drugs (SGA) have not established superior efficacy over first-generation drugs (FGA). The FDA has granted no such claim, and the Cochrane reviews do not support superior antipsychotic efficacy. The appearance of superiority, including the terrific organization of data in the Davis meta-analyses, may be extensively based on last observation carried forward, excessive dose of the FGA, failure to pretreat with anti-parkinsonian drugs, sponsor bias, and a number of other methodological problems including the fact that most study subjects are doing poorly on FGA when recruited into comparative studies. "Atypical antipsychotic" means only low extrapyramidal symptoms at therapeutic dosing. In this regard, the CATIE findings are not surprising, but simply point to the considerable shortfall in effectiveness associated with current treatments. The drugs will vary considerably along side effect liabilities, and matching patient to side effect profile is the key to individualizing drug choice at the moment.

As to time on drug, there was not a long-acting depot arm to the study, and this method should probably be considered in substantially more patients than is the practice in the U.S. Olanzapine did a little better on the time on drug measure, and risperidone was second. This may relate to the fact that these were the two most common drugs used at study onset, so more patients with known tolerability to these drugs began the trial. In any case, concern with weight and the metabolic syndrome will drastically cut the time on drug for olanzapine in current practice.

It is almost impossible to have a level playing field in comparative drug studies, since optimal dosing and individualized dosing parameters are simply little known with most antipsychotic drugs. In this regard, we don't know if quetiapine and ziprasidone would have done better at higher dose; or if risperidone being yoked to olanzapine led to suboptimal dosing in many cases. In Rosenheck's JAMA report, he observed that pretreatment with an anti-parkinsonian drug led to similar effectiveness comparing olanzapine with haloperidol. Would perphenazine have been even better with anti-cholinergic pretreatment?

In my view, this is a critically important study in that it reasonably represents an effectiveness study in typical settings [probably more representative than the Weinberger data set (see Weinberger commentary)] without sponsor bias. As such, it has succeeded in calling public attention to the relative lack of progress associated with "me-too" dopamine blocking antipsychotic drugs. This conclusion is reinforced by the U.K. study reported by Peter Jones at the ICOSR where SGA did not beat FGA on the primary endpoint (quality of life) or on many secondary measures. Another head-on comparison study with public support.

My hope is that industry will devote discovery resources to the challenging problems of novel treatments with new molecular targets addressing problems with impaired cognition and primary negative psychopathology. Refining antipsychotic drugs has not advanced therapeutics much since the introduction of chlorpromazine. Reducing the neuroleptic adverse effects of FGA is a real advance, especially considering the excessive dosing. But significant new liabilities are associated with some of the SGA. We now need to meet the efficacy challenge for the components of schizophrenia that mainly cause poor functional outcomes.

View all comments by William Carpenter

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Daniel Weinberger, SRF Advisor
Submitted 29 October 2005
Posted 30 October 2005

Dr. Swarz's comment providing data from the SCAP study is helpful in confirming that CATIE patients are similar in many phenomenological respects to other patients in schizophrenia treatment programs. Indeed, in terms of PANSS ratings, sex ratios, age at enrollment in the study, and history of recent hospitalizations, CATIE patients are not substantially different from patients we see at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland and we saw when our program was located at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. In my comment, I asked specifically about three CATIE characteristics that seemed atypical to me: age at first antipsychotic treatment (26), precentage of patients who were or had been married (40%), and percentage of patients who were unmedicated at the time they volunteered for the study (30%). It would enlighten this discussion if Dr. Swarz would report these data from the SCAP study.

View all comments by Daniel Weinberger

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Robert McClure (Disclosure)
Submitted 31 October 2005
Posted 1 November 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

It would be interesting to learn from Dr. Swartz and the CATIE investigators (a) the age at first antipsychotic treatment, (b) the percentage of patients who were or had been married, and (c) the percentage of patients who were unmedicated at the time they volunteered for the study in the SCAP sample. I suspect these three variables, if available, will more closely resemble those of the CATIE trial sample than the CBDB sibling study sample.

Dr. Weinberger has suggested that the CATIE trial inadvertently enrolled patients more in the schizophrenia spectrum end of the distribution, or maybe the size and breadth of the CATIE trial obscured the signal from the more classic patient with schizophrenia, so the results may not be generalizable. I suspect that differences in criteria for recruitment and retention between the CBDB sibling study and the CATIE study explain the differences among the demographic variables of the samples.

The clinical characteristics of the CBDB sibling study sample are what one would expect in a study whose purpose is to find associations between genetic variation and neuroimaging/neuropsychological phenotypes, among affected and unaffected family members. The usual patient included in the CBDB sample probably: had onset of active symptoms in late adolescence or early adulthood (i.e., high school or college age, before many people marry); was started on medications earlier in life; and had more intact nuclear families (parents, siblings, etc.) than the usual CATIE subject. Patients with later onset of illness or milder symptoms (who are more likely to be or have been married) and who did not start on medications once psychotic symptoms occurred, were less compliant with their medications, and/or had fewer intact family relationships were unlikely to successfully travel to Bethesda and complete two full days of research testing. The CATIE recruitment strategy did not exclude the unusual patient with treatment of symptoms later in adulthood, require intact nuclear family, or require compliance with medications at time of study entry.

The CBDB sample better represents a "textbook case" of schizophrenia. Many patients who do meet DSM-IV criteria for schizophrenia may not be good candidates for a genetics study, but may still have schizophrenia and are appropriate candidates for a large clinical study. This would suggest that the findings can be generalized to other groups of patients with the illness, though perhaps not the "classic" cases of schizophrenia gathered in the CBDB study.

View all comments by Robert McClure

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Captain Johann Samuhanand
Submitted 7 November 2005
Posted 7 November 2005

Is there any published evidence that gingko biloba could be useful in containing the side effects of clozapine and other atypicals, or are there studies in progress?

View all comments by Captain Johann Samuhanand

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Xiang Zhang
Submitted 8 November 2005
Posted 9 November 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

Reply to comment by Johann Samuhanand
To our best knowledge, there is no published evidence that gingko biloba could be useful in reducing the side effects of clozapine and other atypicals. However, using the same group of patients with schizophrenia as we reported previously (Zhang et al., 2001), our recent study has shown that chronic patients with schizophrenia demonstrated significantly lower CD3+, CD4+, and IL-2 secreting cells, together with CD4/CD8 ratio, than did healthy controls at baseline. After a 12-week treatment, EGb added to haloperidol treatment increased the initially low peripheral CD3+, CD4+, and IL-2 secreting cells, together with CD4/CD8 ratio. There was only a significant increase in CD4+ cells in the placebo plus haloperidol group. These findings suggest that ginkgo biloba may improve the decreased peripheral immune functions in schizophrenia (Zhang et al., 2006).

As we have known, although clozapine is superior over the other drugs in terms of efficacy, it can severely deplete white blood cells, leading to limitations on its use. If gingko biloba may indeed produce beneficial effects on the immune system in schizophrenia, there is a possibility that ginkgo biloba may be useful in reducing the side effects of clozapine, at least in regard to immune function.

On the other hand, a limitation of the design of our previous study (Zhang et al., 2001) is the use of haloperidol as the antipsychotic treatment at a time when atypical antipsychotic drugs are the standard of care. Therefore, a further study is warranted to investigate whether ginkgo biloba shows similar benefits in augmenting the atypical antipsychotics, which already have the capacity to improve the positive and negative symptoms and have better profiles in terms of extrapyramidal side effects.

References:
Zhang XY, Zhou DF, Zhang PY, Wu GY, Su JM, Cao LY. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of extract of Ginkgo biloba added to haloperidol in treatment-resistant patients with schizophrenia. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2001; 62(11):878-83. Abstract

Zhang XY, Zhou DF, Cao LY, Wu GY. The effects of Ginkgo biloba extract added to haloperidol on peripheral T-cell subsets in drug-free schizophrenia: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Psychopharmacology 2006 (in press)

View all comments by Xiang Zhang

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Comment by:  James Manning IV
Submitted 25 November 2005
Posted 25 November 2005

This study is thoughtful and balanced, and driven by evidence.

View all comments by James Manning IV

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Patricia Estani
Submitted 25 November 2005
Posted 25 November 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

I recommend this clear and well-written paper for students to understand the basis of the CATIE studies.

I agree with Dr. Weinberger about the variables that could obscure the results in the target population or the schizophrenic population. His remarks about the control conditions or the dissection of the variables in the study are important. The difference between typical and atypical drugs is clear in these data.

New drugs, diferent from the typical and atypical drugs, based on new genetics research and new genetic routes must be developed in order to achieve new successes in the treatment of schizophrenia.

I think that atypical antipsychotics do not mean only low extrapyramidal symptoms at therapeutic doses. Several studies have demonstrated that atypical drugs(especially olanzapine) are better than typical drugs in important characteristics such as cognitive functioning.

View all comments by Patricia Estani

Related News: Some Antipsychotic Drugs Impair Glucose Metabolism

Comment by:  Patricia Estani
Submitted 27 November 2005
Posted 28 November 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Mike Irwin
Submitted 29 November 2005
Posted 29 November 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Patricia Estani
Submitted 13 December 2005
Posted 13 December 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

The most important current development of new antipsychotic drugs is focused on two mechanisms, the α7-nicotinic receptor agonists that are good new candidates for the management of the disease (Martin et al., 2004) and, most recently (and I think probably the closest to development), is the one that focuses on glutamatergic neurotransmission (Coyle and Tsai, 2004).

On the other hand, I think that behavioral and cognitive therapy, as well as family support and family management given by a professional in this area of health, are important to ensure an excellent result in schizophrenic patients.

References:
Martin LF, Kem WR, Freedman R. Alpha-7 nicotinic receptor agonists: potential new candidates for the treatment of schizophrenia. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2004 Jun ;174(1):54-64. Abstract

Coyle JT, Tsai G. The NMDA receptor glycine modulatory site: a therapeutic target for improving cognition and reducing negative symptoms in schizophrenia. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2004 Jun ;174(1):32-8. Abstract

View all comments by Patricia Estani

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Comment by:  Kiumars Lalezarzadeh
Submitted 27 December 2005
Posted 28 December 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

The relation between fatty acid and dopamine needs basic consideration. Two-week-old pups of mother rats fed n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid-deficient diets (3 weeks before and 2 weeks after birth) showed an increase of D2 (and D1) receptors in the mesolimbic-mesocortical pathways of mothers and many brain areas of the pups (Kuperstein et al., 2005). The depressing effects of increased cholesterol level may be seen in reverse.

The effects of different antipsychotics on the immune system and fungal pathogens need consideration also. Antipsychotics reduce calcineurin protein levels and elevate phosphatase activity of calcineurin in striatum and prefrontal cortex (Rushlow et al., 2005). Calcineurin increases fungal pathogens and its inhibition is related to immune suppression (Cruz et al., 2001). Antipsychotics need further study in relation to calcineurin, immune suppression, and fatty acids.

References:
Kuperstein F, Yakubov E, Dinerman P, Gil S, Eylam R, Salem N Jr, Yavin E. Overexpression of dopamine receptor genes and their products in the postnatal rat brain following maternal n-3 fatty acid dietary deficiency. J Neurochem. 2005 Dec;95(6):1550-62. Epub 2005 Nov 23. Abstract Rushlow WJ, Seah YH, Belliveau DJ, Rajakumar N. Changes in calcineurin expression induced in the rat brain by the administration of antipsychotics. J Neurochem. 2005 Aug;94(3):587-96. Abstract Cruz MC, Fox DS, Heitman J. Calcineurin is required for hyphal elongation during mating and haploid fruiting in Cryptococcus neoformans. EMBO J. 2001 Mar 1;20(5):1020-32. Abstract

View all comments by Kiumars Lalezarzadeh

Related News: CATIE Comes To Surprising Conclusions

Comment by:  Robert Fisher
Submitted 24 December 2005
Posted 28 December 2005
  I recommend the Primary Papers

[Disclosure: R. Fisher was Study Coordinator, Recruiter, and Diagnostician for the Byerly Group at UT Southwestern CATIE site, the second-largest enrollment site in the study.]

The CATIE study is likely the best designed and implemented research project ever conducted regarding schizophrenia and relevant psychopharmacology. The extensively collected data will have an enormous heuristic value in the study and evaluation of this disorder in all aspects of schizophreinia. I found Drs. Lieberman and McEvoy to be true professionals in this study design.

View all comments by Robert Fisher

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Comment by:  Robert Peers
Submitted 30 December 2005
Posted 31 December 2005

In what may be a landmark study of lifestyle intervention in schizophrenia, Australian dietitian Sherryn Evans was highly successful in limiting weight gain in newly diagnosed schizophrenia patients treated with olanzapine (Evans et al., 2005). Nutritionally educated patients were only 2 kg heavier after 3 months and 6 months, and were happier; controls were 6 kg and 9.9 kg heavier at the same time points.

The key to nutritional success is close supervision, best provided in community centers accessible to schizophrenia patients. A gym would help. F. M. Baker once ran a program in a poor area of Baltimore, in which the patients were collected daily and brought in, to cook their own (healthy) meals and take part in psychosocial therapy; medication compliance improved, and readmission rates fell dramatically.

The adverse metabolic effects of most newer antipsychotic drugs have stimulated a renaissance of interest in nutritional factors and physical health in schizophrenia that will hopefully encourage the entry of dietitians and exercise physiologists into the treatment arena. They have much to offer.

A well-planned low-fat, grain- and legume-rich diet, as in the Australian study, will improve cell membrane structure in brain and body by allowing omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acid levels to rise (the key to controlling diabetes and heart risk). The same diet also provides the key nutrient inositol, a seed-derived glucose isomer that imitates the anxiolytic action of clozapine-type drugs, and so would treat the comorbid anxiety seen in a third of patients with schizophrenia (which promotes hypertension, diabetes, cardiac mortality, smoking, negative symptoms, and suicide).

The inositol hexaphosphate in edible seeds is itself a potent iron-binding antioxidant (Graf et al., 1987), prominent in the diet of healthy centenarians, and in the whole grains is known to reduce coronary disease progression in the Iowa Women's Health Study (Erkkila et al., 2005): So here is a simple life-extender and artery protector for schizophrenia patients, too, anxious or not, who eat corn, grains, and beans.

Omega-3 fatty acids already look promising in schizophrenia (Puri and Richardson, 1998), so if oily fish intake is low, two or three fishoil capsules a day—costing little—might help both brain and cardiac risk.

View all comments by Robert Peers

Related News: A Burden on the Heart—Schizophrenia and Coronary Heart Disease

Comment by:  Patricia Estani
Submitted 3 January 2006
Posted 4 January 2006
  I recommend the Primary Papers

More studies must be designed to research variables that affect heart disease in schizophrenia. I think that integrating medical services, for example, adding nutritional treatment or dietary services to psychiatric support is essential to prevent the metabolic syndrome commonly observed in schizophrenic patients.

View all comments by Patricia Estani

Related News: A Burden on the Heart—Schizophrenia and Coronary Heart Disease

Comment by:  SuSanne Henriksen
Submitted 10 January 2006
Posted 10 January 2006
  I recommend the Primary Papers

Is there any evidence of an increased incidence of arrhythmias, especially tachycardia, in schizophrenia?

View all comments by SuSanne Henriksen

Related News: Second Test for Second-generation Antipsychotics: Same Old Story?

Comment by:  Patricia Estani
Submitted 19 October 2006
Posted 19 October 2006
  I recommend the Primary Papers

Related News: Second Test for Second-generation Antipsychotics: Same Old Story?

Comment by:  Jan Volavka
Submitted 19 October 2006
Posted 19 October 2006
  I recommend the Primary Papers

Based on a study of 227 subjects, Jones and colleagues conclude that “there is no disadvantage …in commencing treatment with FGAs rather than atypical SGAs in people with schizophrena…” (Jones et al., 2006). Jones et al chose to compare two groups (all FGAs v.all SGAs). Although they acknowledge, in general, within-group heterogeneity, they consider the comparison between groups clinically useful. However, this perspective that in fact ignores the heterogeneity is limiting, and, in combination with the results of the study, might encourage clinicians to believe that the effectiveness of all antipsychotics is equal (with the possible exception of clozapine).

A recent report provided evidence of great variability of effectiveness across the spectrum of FGAs and SGAs (Tiihonen et al., 2006). This was an observational prospective cohort study of 2230 adults hospitalized for schizophrenia in Finland. The main outcome measures were rates of discontinuation of treatment, and rehospitalization. The study found that the effectiveness within the FGA group varied as a function of route of administration Perphenazine decanoate (the only depot drug analyzed) was considerably more effective than the oral form of the same drug,; in fact, it appeared to be superior to any other drug in the study, including clozapine. Furthermore, clozapine and olanzapine showed better effectiveness than haloperidol . Other drugs in the study (FGAs and SGAs) showed inconsistent differences from haloperidol. Thus, the effectiveness af antipsychotics is not equal.

Nevertheless, in spite of methodological differences, the Jones and Tihonen studies are consistent with each other. Had Tiihonen et al. elected to create and compare two groups analogous to the Jones study (FGAs v. SGAs), the result might have been the same as shown by Jones et al: no group difference (see Tiihonen tables showing the treatments ordered by the relative risks of rehospitalization and discontinuation). This result, if presented as the sole outcome of the study, would have obscured very important differences among individual drugs.

What, then, is the useful clinical perspective based on all these data? I think that the success of perphenazine decanoate in the Tiihonen study brings up again the great importance of compliance for effectiveness. Furthermore, the choice of drug for individual patients should probably be driven by the individual properties of the drug and of the patient, rather than by the drug’s classification.

Do the SGAs exhibit greater effectiveness than the FGAs? At this stage of the game, we may seek refuge with Orwell: All antipsychotics are equal, but some antipsychotics are more equal than others.

View all comments by Jan Volavka

Related News: Second Test for Second-generation Antipsychotics: Same Old Story?

Comment by:  György Szekeres
Submitted 1 November 2006
Posted 1 November 2006
  I recommend the Primary Papers

Related News: Food for Thought—Weight Gain and Mortality in the Mentally Ill

Comment by:  Mary Reid
Submitted 12 March 2007
Posted 14 March 2007

Atmaca and colleagues report that atypical antipsychotic-, especially clozapine- and olanzapine-induced weight gain is related to increased levels of leptin. How does this tie in with the study by Sangwon Kim and colleagues, who found that clozapine and olanzapine lower levels of active AMPK in mouse hypothalamus tissue while leptin activates hypothalamic AMPK?

Wannamethee et al. conclude, "Plasma leptin is associated with insulin resistance, inflammation, and disturbances in homeostasis independent of waist circumference, suggesting possible pathways by which leptin may influence risk of cardiovascular disease." They also report that leptin is lowered in cigarette smokers.

It is of interest that De Rosa and colleagues report reduced activation of FOXP3 by leptin. Is this a positive or a negative in schizophrenia? Is there a predisposition to develop autoimmune disease with long-term use of these drugs?

View all comments by Mary Reid

Related News: Study Questions Advantages of Newer Antipsychotics for Early Schizophrenia

Comment by:  Jan Volavka
Submitted 2 April 2008
Posted 3 April 2008
  I recommend the Primary Papers

The EUFEST study found that haloperidol, in comparison with several SGAs, was associated with a higher rate of overall treatment discontinuation, a higher rate of discontinuation because of lack of efficacy, a higher rate of discontinuation because of side effects, and worse outcome on the CGI and the GAF. Surprisingly, the authors’ last sentence reads: “It cannot be concluded that SGAs are more efficacious than is haloperidol….” Although restraint in scientific conclusions is generally admirable, I think that these authors are being too conservative in the interpretation of their important findings.

The reason for their hesitancy, it appears, is that the PANSS and the rehospitalization rates have not shown significant differences among drugs. Furthermore, they are concerned about the possibility of provider expectation biasing the results against haloperidol: if the psychiatrists expected haloperidol to do poorly, perhaps they were more likely to discontinue it than another treatment in which they believed. But the lack of difference on the PANSS total can have many reasons. Subanalyses of PANSS factors and data on rater training effectiveness that may be published in secondary studies could shed some light on this. Rehospitalization rates would be expected to depend on the treatment the patients received after their participation in the study was terminated; this topic is also likely to be explored later.

Provider expectations are difficult to demonstrate. The authors polled the site coordinators, asking them whether they expected haloperidol to lead to the worst outcome, or whether the outcome would be similar to that with SGAs. The authors then tested the hypothesis that the sites where haloperidol was expected to do worse would have higher discontinuation rates with haloperidol than the other sites. They found a non-significant difference in the expected direction. It should be noted that the poll occurred after the end of data collection, and that the coordinators were not blinded to the treatment assignments. Therefore, the result of the poll could have reflected experience as well as expectation.

Is it possible that the differences between haloperidol and the SGAs on CGI and GAF (but not on the PANSS) were due to their greater vulnerability to bias of these two scales than the PANSS? There are two speculations here: one, that a bias existed in this study, and two, that the scales have inherent differences in their liability to rater bias. No empirical evidence supports either of these speculations.

In summary, the EUFEST study results, based on data from close to 500 patients collected by dozens of investigators, permit more definitive conclusions than the authors have drawn in their first paper. We are looking forward to follow-up articles by this outstanding group of investigators. Practicing psychiatrists will particularly appreciate a presentation of the clinical implications of this landmark study.

View all comments by Jan Volavka

Related News: Study Questions Advantages of Newer Antipsychotics for Early Schizophrenia

Comment by:  Peter F. Buckley
Submitted 11 April 2008
Posted 11 April 2008

This timely study, conducted by a stellar group of European investigators, adds to the continued debate about choice of medications for schizophrenia, informed by other similarly impressive pragmatic trials such as CATIE and CUTlass. Unlike the other recently published first-episode treatment study—the CAFE study (McEvoy et al., 2007)—which was double blind and compared SGAs only (risperidone versus olanzapine versus quetiapine), EUFEST better fits the model of a pragmatic trial and also included a FGA comparator. Although readers, particularly policy makers, will inevitably be drawn to the “Should I choose an FGA or SGA” content of this study, it seems to me that the most striking finding is (yet again) how frequently patients stop their medications. The 72 percent overall “All Cause” Discontinuation rate bears an uncanny resemblance to the 74 percent in CATIE and to the similar rate in the one-year CAFE first-episode study. Thus, medication non-adherence is a major treatment issue right from the onset of treatment. Set in that light, the differences observed in the study between agents are relatively modest. The data do not endorse the preferential “lead off” with any particular agent. Indeed, much like the discussion that followed the publication of the CATIE study, these data make the case for wide availability and choice of antipsychotic medications, rather than confining to a selective FGA first or X drug before trying Y among the SGAs. I agree with Dr Volavka's comment that subsequent analyses of these valuable data may bring additional insights to the surface.

References:

McEvoy JP, Lieberman JA, Perkins DO, Hamer RM, Gu H, Lazarus A, Sweitzer D, Olexy C, Weiden P, Strakowski SD. Efficacy and tolerability of olanzapine, quetiapine, and risperidone in the treatment of early psychosis: a randomized, double-blind 52-week comparison. Am J Psychiatry. 2007 Jul ;164(7):1050-60. Abstract

View all comments by Peter F. Buckley

Related News: Study Questions Advantages of Newer Antipsychotics for Early Schizophrenia

Comment by:  Leslie Citrome
Submitted 18 April 2008
Posted 19 April 2008
  I recommend the Primary Papers

Although in EUFEST, psychopathology improved to a similar extent among the different groups, durability of the medication was quite different. This is of the utmost importance when it comes to treating patients—no one would disagree that continuation on medication is crucial in the successful treatment of patients with schizophrenia. If my goal is to pick the antipsychotic that my first-episode patient will stick with the longest, olanzapine or amisulpride appears to be what the data recommend. The alternative is to prescribe something else and then switch if necessary. Curiously, amisulpride and olanzapine (and risperidone) appeared to perform better than haloperidol in the Davis meta-analysis published when EUFEST was being launched (Davis et al., 2003).

As an exercise in looking at EUFEST through the lens of evidence-based medicine, I calculated the number needed to treat (NNT) for all-cause discontinuation (Citrome, 2008). NNT yields statistically significant pair-wise advantages for olanzapine vs. haloperidol and quetiapine; amisulpride vs. haloperidol and quetiapine; and ziprasidone vs. haloperidol. The strongest effect sizes were olanzapine or amisulpride vs. haloperidol with an NNT of four, meaning for every four patients randomized to olanzapine or amisulpride instead of haloperidol, one additional patient on olanzapine or amisulpride completed the study on his or her initially assigned medication. Overall, the EUFEST NNT results for all-cause discontinuation are consistent with what has been observed in an NNT analysis of the CATIE data (Citrome et al., 2006).

References:

Citrome L: Interpreting and applying the EUFEST results using number needed to treat: antipsychotic effectiveness in first-episode schizophrenia. International Journal of Clinical Practice. 2008;62(5):837-840. Abstract

Citrome L, Stroup TS: Schizophrenia, Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) and number needed to treat: how can CATIE inform clinicians? International Journal of Clinical Practice. 2006;60(8):933-940. Abstract

Davis JM, Chen N, Glick ID. A meta-analysis of the efficacy of second-generation antipsychotics. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2003; 60: 553–64. Abstract

View all comments by Leslie Citrome

Related News: Study Questions Advantages of Newer Antipsychotics for Early Schizophrenia

Comment by:  Herbert Meltzer (Disclosure)
Submitted 29 April 2008
Posted 29 April 2008

EUFEST, CATIE, and CUtLASS: Should Atypical Antipsychotic Drugs Remain the Most Prescribed Treatment for Schizophrenia?
The EUFEST (Kahn et al., 2008) study is the third major effectiveness-style study published in the last three years whose goal has been to compare typical and atypical antipsychotic drugs in the treatment of specified subgroups of patients with schizophrenia, the others being CATIE (Lieberman et al., 2005) and CUtLASS (Jones et al., 2006). The authors of EUFEST close their report with: “…it cannot be concluded that second-generation antipsychotic drugs are more efficacious than is haloperidol in the treatment of these (first-episode schizophrenia) patients” despite the fact that the discontinuation rate was the primary endpoint, and there was a significantly lower rate of discontinuation of the atypical drugs: 40 percent for amisulpride, 33 percent for olanzapine, 53 percent for quetiapine, and 45 percent for ziprasidone, vs. 72 percent for haloperidol; p <0.0001). However cautious this statement, it was still not acceptable to Robert Rosenheck (2008) who, in the accompanying Lancet commentary, states: ”There clearly seems to be much less, if any [my emphasis] ground for enthusiasm about these costly drugs now than in 2002, precisely because of the finding of large, independent double-blind trials, ” by which he refers to the CATIE (Lieberman et al., 2005) and CUtLASS (Jones et al., 2006) studies. The EUFEST authors chose to downplay their primary outcome measure, which was robustly achieved, because rating scale changes were not significantly different between the atypical antipsychotic drugs and haloperidol and because CATIE and CUtLASS had reached similar conclusions with regard to more chronically ill patients.

As I will show, the disconnect between continuation with therapy and equivalence of changes in psychopathology confirmed what we had found more than a decade ago in a randomized, blinded, small N trial comparing clozapine and typical antipsychotic drugs in recent onset patients with schizophrenia who had a history of good response to typical antipsychotic drug treatment (Lee et al., 1994; 1999). The EUFEST articles ducked the more pressing question of which type of medication should be administered to first episode patients if, indeed, it cannot be concluded that one is more effective than another.

What in the “real world” is going on? Efficacy, effectiveness and hybrid studies
It is important to consider whether the EUFEST, CATIE, and CUtLASS studies should be considered hybrid rather than effectiveness studies, because these studies urge greater significance be paid to them than to efficacy studies. They are supposedly “real world,” while claiming efficacy studies are much less so, or not at all. As pointed out by Hogarty et al. (1997), studies such as EUFEST, CATIE, and CUtLASS are much closer to what is generally called a hybrid than a true effectiveness study, because of the elaborate and extensive research apparatus they employ, making it highly likely that usual clinical practice, patient behavior, and outcome were influenced by protocol design and execution, just as they are in efficacy studies. For example, the CATIE study design most certainly encouraged switching drugs within its large-scale Phase 1 component comparing perphenazine with atypical antipsychotics, and did so in a variety of ways (Meltzer and Bobo, 2006). In addition, the CATIE study design did the same in the treatment failure phase of the study by comparing unblinded clozapine with blinded comparators and using time to discontinuation as the primary endpoint. Unblinding clozapine clearly favored it since the small proportion of eligible patients who entered that phase of the study were mainly those who wanted to receive a trial of clozapine in the first place. (McEvoy et al., 2006). Kenneth Wells, a distinguished authority on the issue of effectiveness and hybrid studies concluded, and I concur: “We do not yet know whether the findings of such hybrid studies will be clinically and socially useful” (Wells, 1999). Until we do so, it would seem prudent to withstand the pressure to make the atypical antipsychotic drugs second line treatments, which has been the explicit message from some of the authors of CATIE and CUtLASS, if not EUFEST.

Clozapine and expectations for superiority of other atypical antipsychotic drugs
Consideration of the issue of whether atypical antipsychotic drugs have advantages over typical antipsychotic drugs, the driving force behind these three hybrid studies, can begin with a consideration of whether even clozapine has advantages with regard to efficacy and time to discontinuation over typical antipsychotic drugs. Though the typical and atypical antipsychotic drugs, e.g., clozapine, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone, ziprasidone, and aripiprazole, are referred to in all three studies as first- and second-generation antipsychotic drugs, I prefer to refer to them as typical and atypical, as they were originally called, and as they are almost universally referred to by preclinical scientists. Labeling them as “first- and second-generation” drugs is inaccurate with regard to the time frame in which clozapine, the first of the atypical antipsychotic drugs, was initially discovered and developed (which was at the same time, or even prior to, many of the so-called first-generation drugs) and contrasts it mechanistically from the typical antipsychotic drugs.

Clozapine was labeled atypical shortly after its discovery by both preclinical and clinical investigators, solely because of its lack of extrapyramidal effects (EPS) in both laboratory animals and patients. This critical advantage is due to major differences in its pharmacology, one which is shared by all of the currently marketed atypical antipsychotic drugs developed since clozapine, with the exception of sulpiride and amisulpride. The critically important shared pharmacology of the clozapine-like atypical antipsychotic drugs—olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone, and ziprasidone—is more potent blockade of serotonin (5-HT) 2A than dopamine (DA) D2 receptors, at optimal clinical doses (Meltzer et al.,1989; 2003). Aripiprazole substitutes partial D2 receptor agonism for relatively weaker D2 antagonism but retains the 5-HT2A antagonism common to the other atypical antipsychotics other than sulpiride and amisulpride. The so-called “fast-off” hypothesis of Kapur and Seeman (2000) to explain atypicality in antipsychotic drugs is valid only for clozapine itself and quetiapine, both of which have low affinities for the D2 receptor, but not for asenapine, olanzapine, risperidone, sertindole, and ziprasidone, which have high affinities for the D2 receptor. How important fast dissociation is for even clozapine and quetiapine is unknown.

The pharmacology of sulpiride and amisulpride, which had a decisive influence in the CUtLASS study and has never been differentiated to my knowledge, involves highly selective and potent D2 and D3 receptor blockade (Caley and Weber, 1995; Scatton et al., 1997; NIMH Psychopharmacology Drug Screening Program website), yet sulpiride was the most extensively prescribed (showing clinician insight?) of the “first-generation” drugs (49 percent of patients in that arm), while amisulpride accounted for 12 percent of the atypical drugs in the “second-generation arm” in the CUtLASS study. Both drugs, while not free of EPS, meet the definition for atypicality (Rao et al., 1981; Gerlach, 1991) and have been so identified in important meta-analyses (see Rummel et al., 2003; Leucht, 2004). Regardless of whether one believes them to be typical or atypical, it would have been prudent for the CUtLASS investigators to exclude both agents rather than risk compromising the study, as I believe they did. Their inclusion is sufficient by itself to invalidate CUtLASS in my opinion, but there were at least two other major problems that affect the validity of that study. Thus, significantly greater proportions of patients who had failed prior antipsychotic drug treatments were randomized to the atypical arm—to receive either 5-HT2A/D2 antagonists or amisulpride—than to the sulpiride plus typical antipsychotic drug arm, a major flaw which was not only not corrected for, but was not mentioned anywhere in the article to my knowledge. Next, the use of long-acting medications, with their potential for better compliance, was permitted in the patients in the typical antipsychotic arm, further biasing the results for that group of agents, while there was no use of long-acting risperidone in the atypical arm. Thus, three major biases, all favoring the typical agents, were operative in the CUtLASS study. The atypicals hardly had a chance to do well, competing against themselves, with more treatment-resistant patients assigned to that group, and utilizing only oral medications.

Clozapine, for more than a decade beginning in 1975, was rejected for all but research and compassionate need purposes, because it caused a higher rate of agranulocytosis than the typical antipsychotics. We now know this occurs approximately 30 times more frequently with clozapine (~7.5/1000 vs. 0.25/1000). The US Clozapine Multicenter Trial, of which I was an author, found that clozapine was more effective than chlorpromazine for poor-outcome, treatment-resistant patients with schizophrenia (Kane et al., 1988). The conclusions of that study have been supported by many other studies, including CATIE, CUtLASS, and a recent study of treatment-resistant first-episode patients (Agid et al., 2007). Subsequent studies from my laboratory and others showed additional benefits for clozapine over other antipsychotic drugs for cognition and suicide in non-treatment-resistant as well as treatment-resistant patients (Hagger et al., 1993; Meltzer and McGurk, 1999; Woodward et al., 2005; 2007; Meltzer and Okayli, 1995; Meltzer et al., 2003), as well as quality of life (Meltzer et al., 1993). These studies included the type of patients in the CATIE and CUtLASS study. The result of the body of research from many laboratories all over the world establishing clozapine as the “gold standard” for treating schizophrenia was that the bar was set very high for the inevitable attempts to develop drugs with the efficacy of clozapine, but without its spectrum of serious, sometimes fatal side effects, which discouraged many patients and clinicians from even trying it then and now. There are, today, no more than 60,000-90,000 of the two million patients with schizophrenia who are receiving clozapine in the U.S.

Atypical antipsychotic drugs with pharmacology similar to clozapine
Publication of the serotonin-dopamine ratio hypothesis (Meltzer et al., 1989) introduced a simple means to identify drugs other than clozapine which had a low EPS potential and facilitated the development not only of aripiprazole, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone and ziprasidone, which are currently marketed, but also asenapine, iloperidone, laurasidone, perospirone, and sertindole (none of which are consistent with the “fast off” hypothesis), which are in advanced stages of development in the U.S., or already marketed in other countries. In addition, a host of other novel chemical structures with preclinical characteristics of atypical antipsychotic drugs consistent with the serotonin-dopamine ratio hypothesis have been reported on. The similarity of the pharmacologic profile of the marketed agents with that of clozapine may have contributed to the expectation that all drugs which had this pharmacologic profile would be superior to typical neuroleptics in all patients with schizophrenia (Lewis and Lieberman, 2008). The publication of a pivotal large, international study comparing risperidone with haloperidol and placebo, which did find some doses of risperidone to be superior to haloperidol, although only marginally so (Marder and Meibach,1994), was a likely contributor to this expectation. However, as pointed out by the authors in an accompanying editorial (Kane, 1994), it should have been noted that many of the patients in that study were possibly treatment-resistant. It is noteworthy that risperidone at a dose of 20 mg/day was one of the two risperidone doses that were reported to be more effective than haloperidol. This high dose might be expected to be more effective than haloperidol in treatment-resistant patients (see below).

The pivotal industry studies for quetiapine and ziprasidone did not claim superiority to haloperidol, except slightly greater benefits for negative symptoms, while those for olanzapine were mixed in this regard. The major pivotal study for olanzapine, as well as the overview of its pivotal trials, claimed no advantage of olanzapine over haloperidol for improvement in total psychopathology or positive symptoms (Beasley et al., 1996; Beasley et al., 1997). However, a multicenter trial conducted in countries outside the U.S. did find olanzapine superior to haloperidol (Tollefson et al., 1997). Geddes et al. (2000) provided the first meta-analysis comparing efficacy and tolerability of typical and atypical antipsychotic drugs and found no difference in efficacy between them, but fewer EPS with atypicals. Ironically, it was two academic-based meta-analytic reviews (Davis et al., 2003; Leucht et al., 2000), which concluded that the atypicals were superior to the typical agents in efficacy, that are frequently cited as the basis for the claim that the atypical agents are superior for the non-treatment-resistant patient. In a subsequent article, Davis et al. (2008) reported that the CATIE results were consistent with the Davis et al. (2003) meta-analysis in showing superiority for olanzapine, and that there was no evidence of industry bias of the studies they reviewed. Thus, CATIE and EUFEST are largely confirmatory of what industry and other studies had reported from the start: no difference in total psychopathology and positive symptom control between typical and atypical antipsychotic drugs other than clozapine. CATIE reported advantages for olanzapine, which we have suggested was due to the high dosage permitted for olanzapine and inclusion of a high proportion of treatment-resistant patients (Meltzer and Bobo, 2006), while CUtLASS reported trends for greater improvement in Quality of Life and symptom scores for their mixed typical/atypical antipsychotic-treated group, possibly for the reasons noted above. I suggest that it is possible to obtain further insight into the comparative efficacy of typical and atypical antipsychotic drugs by consideration of clozapine vs. typical antipsychotic drugs in non-treatment-resistant patients.

Is clozapine superior to typical antipsychotics in non-treatment-resistant patients?
The issue of whether clozapine itself is superior to the typical antipsychotic drugs, let alone whether the other atypical antipsychotic drugs are as well, for the non-treatment-resistant patients with schizophrenia, is one that has been explored and provides information relevant to the ongoing discussion about the merits of the two classes of drugs for treatment of the majority of patients with schizophrenia. In a trial with neuroleptic responsive patients, my colleagues and I found that clozapine had no advantages for psychopathology, compared to typical neuroleptic drugs, but that discontinuation from the treatment initially randomized to occurred significantly more frequently with the typical antipsychotic drugs ( Lee et al., 1994; 1999). (A more detailed report of the results of this study is in preparation because of its increased importance in light of some of the issues I address here). We reached this conclusion as the result of a study comparing clozapine and typical neuroleptic drugs in 85 patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder who were within a few years of the onset of psychotic symptoms, and who had been selected for being neuroleptic-responsive, These patients were randomly assigned to receive clozapine or typical neuroleptic drugs and evaluated over a two-year period. All ratings of psychopathology (baseline, 6 weeks, 3, 6, 12, and 24 months) were videotaped and rated by a single rater blind to treatment. The same, single but unblinded clinician treated all patients and made all decisions about drug continuation. Equivalent improvement in BPRS Total, Positive, or Negative symptoms, SANS and SAPS ratings CGI and Quality of Life measures was found. There were, however, significant differences in the number of dropouts. Of the 85 patients, nine (22.5 percent) assigned to clozapine and 19 (42.2 percent) to typical neuroleptics (χ2 = 3.73, p = .05) discontinued the typical antipsychotic drug treatment, for a variety of reasons. Significantly, two of the patients treated with typical neuroleptics developed tardive dyskinesia, and both were switched to clozapine, as were two patients who became resistant to typical neuroleptics during the course of treatment. There was no incentive for the patients, who were permitted to choose the typical agent they had had the best prior experience with, to discontinue the initially assigned typical neuroleptic, as the only other available treatment at the time was another typical antipsychotic drug.

The most important difference between clozapine and typical antipsychotic drugs in the Lee et al. study (Lee et al., 1994; 1999) was that treatment with clozapine improved some domains of cognition, particularly psychomotor speed and attention, as assessed by the Digit Symbol Substitution Test, and verbal fluency, as assessed by the Category Instance Generation and Controlled Word Association tests at six weeks, which was maintained throughout the one-year study. These improvements were not related to improvement in psychopathology or differences in EPS. We concluded that these results indicated that clozapine is superior to typical neuroleptics in improving specific types of cognitive function in some recent onset, neuroleptic-responsive schizophrenia, but not with regard to improvement in psychopathology. Carpenter et al. (1995) also called attention to the lack of advantage of clozapine over typical neuroleptic drugs in non-treatment-resistant patients, citing additional published literature to support their conclusion. The EUFEST results with atypical antipsychotic drugs other than clozapine, in first-episode patients, are in agreement with the results of Lee et al. and support the conclusion that expectation of advantage for symptom change should not be the reason for using an atypical antipsychotic drug in first-episode and non-treatment resistant-patients. But there are other reasons for preferring the atypicals as first-line treatment.

Is clozapine uniquely effective in treatment-resistant patients?
So if the typical and atypical drugs do not differ in their ability to reduce overall psychopathology in non-treatment-resistant and first-episode patients, are there any reasons to use atypicals, given their greater cost and metabolic side effects, in some cases, as first-line treatment? The International Psychopharmacology Algorithm Project (IPAP), a group of international experts including Jeff Lieberman and Wolfgang Fleishhacker, principal authors of CATIE and EUFEST, respectively, a project which I chaired, concluded that atypicals should be first-line for non-treatment-resistant schizophrenia (see www.IPAP.org). Contrast this with Rosenheck (2008), whose list of possible uses of atypicals is limited to patients with tardive dyskinesia, akathisia, or pseudo-parkinsonism. Rosenheck et al. (2008) recommends that clozapine is first-line in treatment-resistant patients. But is it truly superior to the other serotonin-antagonists in this regard?

Recently, my colleagues and I reported that olanzapine is equivalent to clozapine in improving psychopathology and cognition for treatment-resistant schizophrenia, when the doses of both are comparable: i.e., two to four times the doses needed for non-treatment-resistant patients (Meltzer et al., 2008). (It is generally not appreciated that the average dose of clozapine used for treatment-resistant patients, 300-700 mg/day, is two to three times the dose needed for non-treatment-resistant patients, i.e., 100-300 mg/day). Treatment for up to six months was required for the majority of treatment-resistant patients to respond to olanzapine, mean dose 35 mg/day, or clozapine, mean dose 550 mg/day (Meltzer et al., 2008). This small N study, though consistent with many uncontrolled studies, and the results of CATIE, where olanzapine was used at doses as high as 30 mg/day, needs to be replicated and extended. The benefits of high doses and prolonged monotherapy of clozapine or olanzapine for treatment-resistant patients may also hold for other serotonin-dopamine antagonists that are direct-acting dopamine antagonists, including quetiapine (1200-2000 mg/day), risperidone (12-20 mg/day), and ziprasidone (>160-640 mg/day) (Pierre et al., 2005; Deutschmann and Deutschmann, 2007). It does not hold for high doses of typical antipsychotic drugs (Kane et al., 1988). The recent report that standard doses of aripiprazole, a partial agonist with 5-HT2A antagonist and 5-HT1A agonist properties, is effective in treatment-resistant schizophrenia (Kane et al., 2007) needs to be confirmed, and, if valid, examined as to mechanism.

Are there reasons to use atypical antipsychotic drugs in non-treatment-resistant patients as first-line treatment?
Tardive dyskinesia
The consensus has been that about 30 percent of patients with schizophrenia are treatment-resistant. Clearly, clozapine itself, or possibly high doses of an atypical agent related to clozapine, is the treatment of choice for such patients. Should they, at lower doses, also be the first-line treatment for the other 70 percent, or, should they be second-line treatments, as some of the CATIE (Rosenheck et al., 2008; Lewis and Lieberman, 2008) and CUtLASS (Jones et al., 2006) authors sometimes seem to suggest. Clearly, reducing the risk for tardive dyskinesia is an important reason, as advocated by Gardos (1999), with partial concurrence by Lieberman (2007). I do not agree with those who minimize this risk—most patients with schizophrenia need to take antipsychotic drugs on a lifetime basis. Those who advocate the typical drugs as the ethically appropriate first-line treatment realize they must minimize the risk of TD to argue for using these drugs routinely (Rosenheck, 2008; Rosenheck and Lieberman, 2007). At least 20 percent of neuroleptic-treated patients are afflicted with tardive dyskinesia, and roughly 4-5 percent are expected to develop tardive dyskinesia with each year of neuroleptic treatment (Kane et al., 1988). Margolese et al. (2005), in a recent comprehensive review of tardive dyskinesia, which took into account dosage issues, age, and sex as risk factors, concluded that there is significantly less risk of developing tardive dyskinesia with atypical antipsychotic drugs. While the metabolic side effects of some of the atypicals—olanzapine and clozapine, in particular—must be given every consideration, there are serotonin-dopamine antagonists, e.g., amisulpride, aripiprazole, risperidone, and ziprasidone, which have mild adverse effects that are in the same range as those produced by typical neuroleptic drugs. Olanzapine and clozapine can then be reserved for those patients who do not respond to the drugs with better metabolic profiles, until and if it is shown that these other atypical antipsychotics are effective and safe at higher doses in treatment-resistant patients.

Cognitive improvement
The second major reason for continuing to favor the atypicals as a class is that cognitive improvement is more likely with the atypical antipsychotics than the typical antipsychotics. This is not the place to argue this hotly debated point, which is supported by mean changes in cognition favoring the atypicals (Woodward et al., 2005; 2007). The cognition data from CATIE (Keefe et al., 2007) did not support advantages for the atypical agents, but there are many unusual features of that study, which is still undergoing intensive reexamination (Harvey P, personal communication). Imaging studies show better brain function during cognitive tasks and positive changes in brain grey and white matter in patients receiving atypical versus typical antipsychotic drugs (e.g., Surguladze et al., 2007). Additional studies of this kind are needed. There is already extensive and rapidly growing preclinical evidence which shows that the atypical, but not the typical, antipsychotic drugs can reverse cognitive dysfunction produced by chronic NMDA receptor antagonists, e.g., PCP and MK-801, in rodents (Grayson et al., 2007), a model of cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia that has many supporters in the basic neuroscience community. This may be related to their ability to enhance dopamine and acetylcholine release in the cortex (Ichikawa et al, 2002, Kuroki et al., 1999). What is evident to those familiar with this literature is that if these highly replicated preclinical findings have no clinical relevance, than there is an enormous waste of effort ongoing in the many academic and industry laboratories worldwide which use these surrogate measures as the basis for developing new drugs to improve or further improve cognition in schizophrenia. There is, I believe, too great a readiness to dismiss the evidence in support of the cognitive advantages of the atypical over the typical antipsychotic drugs for a significant proportion of patients, advantages which lead to beneficial changes in function in some.

In summary, the EUFEST study provides additional evidence that typical and atypical antipsychotic drugs do not differ in their ability to improve psychopathology in non-treatment-resistant patients, something we have known for some time, in my view. The EUFEST study also adds to the evidence that despite this, patients may remain on treatment with atypical agents for longer periods than with typical antipsychotics, including first-episode patients who are more prone to stop medication than more chronic patients. However, the take-home message is not that these drugs should become second-line (risperidone, clozapine), third-line (aripiprazole, quetiapine, ziprasidone), or fourth-line (olanzapine) therapy because of their supposed lack of cost effectiveness, as advocated by Rosenheck (2008) and Rosenheck et al. (2008). Rather, I believe it is the need for further research about the differences between these classes of drugs with regard to cognition and effects upon brain structure and function, in better described and circumscribed populations, using the most rigorous kind of experimental design, and more complete acknowledgement of the typical antipsychotics' greater risk to cause tardive dyskinesia.

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Jones PB, Barnes TR, Davies L, Dunn G, Lloyd H, Hayhurst KP, Murray RM, Markwick A, Lewis SW.(2006) Randomized controlled trial of the effect on Quality of Life of second- vs. first-generation antipsychotic drugs in schizophrenia: Cost Utility of the Latest Antipsychotic Drugs in Schizophrenia Study (CUtLASS 1).Arch Gen Psychiatry. 63(10):1079-87. Abstract

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www. IPAP.org; The International Psychopharmacology Algorithm Project

View all comments by Herbert Meltzer

Related News: Study Questions Advantages of Newer Antipsychotics for Early Schizophrenia

Comment by:  Erik JohnsenHugo A. Jorgensen
Submitted 12 May 2008
Posted 14 May 2008

In our recently published systematic review of randomized effectiveness trials on SGAs (Johnsen and Jorgensen, 2008), the main findings were that chronically ill patients treated with olanzapine had longer time until treatment discontinuation and/or better drug compliance compared to those treated with the other SGAs, as well as the FGAs in those studies that had an FGA arm. The SGAs and FGAs did not differ on efficacy measures, and there were surprisingly few differences among SGAs on tolerability outcomes. The most consistent tolerability difference among the SGAs was in the area of metabolic adverse effects, where olanzapine-treated patients had more weight gain and adverse influence on cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The most pronounced difference between FGAs and SGAs on tolerability outcomes was that the FGAs were associated with significantly more extrapyramidal side effects (EPS) or discontinuation owing to EPS in the majority of studies. We noticed that this finding was also replicated in the EUFEST.

In summary, we believe the evidence thus far indicates superiority for olanzapine on the effectiveness outcome of time to discontinuation in patients with chronic schizophrenia, but olanzapine-treated patients also have more weight gain and metabolic side effects, which means that this drug does not necessarily have the most beneficial ratio of numbers needed to treat (NNT) and numbers needed to harm (NNH). The FGAs have not demonstrated superiority over SGAs in effectiveness, efficacy, or tolerability measures, and are associated with more EPS in a majority of studies, indicating a less favorable NNT/NHH ratio compared to the SGAs on this outcome measure.

As a closing remark, we believe that due to very different pharmacological properties, results from studies with a single drug FGA arm cannot be inferred to the collected FGA group. In reality only haloperidol, fluphenazine, and perphenazine have been evaluated versus SGAs in the effectiveness studies thus far, and conclusions can only be drawn for these FGAs.

References:

Johnsen E, Jorgensen HA. Effectiveness of second generation antipsychotics: A systematic review of randomized trials. BMC Psychiatry. 2008 Apr 25;8(1):31. Abstract

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Related News: Thinking Outside the Pillbox: Fish Oil and Exercise for Schizophrenia?

Comment by:  William Carpenter, SRF Advisor (Disclosure)
Submitted 16 February 2010
Posted 16 February 2010

The most controversial recommendation being considered by the DSM-V Psychoses Work Group involves creating a risk syndrome section and placing psychosis risk as a class in this new section. The September 2009 issue of Schizophrenia Bulletin carried a concept piece on the risk syndrome by Heckers, a validity report by Woods et al., and an editorial detailing Work Group considerations by me. Reliability has been established among experts, but to eventually make this recommendation for DSM-V, we will have to demonstrate reliability in ordinary clinical settings by ordinary clinicians. Even then, substantial opposition is anticipated, and it seems more likely headed for the appendix (in need of further study) than prime time as a diagnostic class.

Opposition is based primarily on three concerns: 1) high false-positive rates, 2) harm related to stigma and excessive drug prescribing, and 3) lack of an evidence-based therapeutic approach with documented efficacy and effectiveness. The first two can be rebutted to some extent by giving emphasis to the potential advantages for the true positive cases. Regarding the false positive cases, it can be emphasized that distress, disability, and help-seeking are obligatory for the proposed criteria. Therefore, these persons would still be exposed to clinical care that might include excessive medication and stigma. Furthermore, they would still have the risk of an uninformative diagnosis.

On the third point, it is worth noting that the DSM is not a therapeutic manual. Nonetheless, as a practical matter, I have assumed that opposition would melt away if a safe and effective treatment for true positive cases were known, and if the treatment did more good than harm for false positive cases. Amminger et al. move the field a giant step forward in this regard. Omega-3 free fatty acids are thought to be associated with general health benefits without significant adverse effects. I take them daily and hope to live forever. Their report of substantially reduced conversion-to- psychotic-illness rates is reinforced by secondary analyses showing benefits for psychopathology. The number needed to treat is four, a very small number, and I assume the number needed to harm is very high (this could not be determined in the present study since adverse events did not exceed placebo, but infinity is not excluded).

This important report urgently calls for replication or refutation. If confirmed, it provides a basis for hope that therapeutics with a novel compound may substantially improve the fate of persons at risk for psychotic illness. If confirmed, I expect the opposition to formally identifying persons as at risk for psychosis will melt away. We may be closer to issues related to identifying and treating hypercholesterolemia than we are to the supposed harm associated with elevating the risk syndrome to the level of classification in DSM-V.

References:

Heckers S. Who is at risk for a psychotic disorder? Schizophr Bull. 2009 Sep;35(5):847-50. Epub 2009 Jul 24. Abstract

Woods SW, Addington J, Cadenhead KS, Cannon TD, Cornblatt BA, Heinssen R, Perkins DO, Seidman LJ, Tsuang MT, Walker EF, McGlashan TH. Validity of the prodromal risk syndrome for first psychosis: findings from the North American Prodrome Longitudinal Study. Schizophr Bull. 2009 Sep;35(5):894-908. Abstract

Carpenter WT. Anticipating DSM-V: should psychosis risk become a diagnostic class? Schizophr Bull. 2009 Sep;35(5):841-3. Abstract

View all comments by William Carpenter

Related News: Thinking Outside the Pillbox: Fish Oil and Exercise for Schizophrenia?

Comment by:  Stuart Maudsley
Submitted 19 February 2010
Posted 19 February 2010

The recent work of Pajonk and colleagues is one of the most recent demonstrations of the beneficial neurological actions of physical exercise. Physical activity not only can improve cardiovascular health directly, but also appears to engender a strong neurotrophic effect that can be isolated somewhat from the cardiovascular actions. Recreational physical activity has been demonstrated to improve learning and memory functions in healthy adults (Winter et al., 2007), reduce the risk of dementia in elderly patients (Karp et al., 2006; Vaynman and Gomez-Pinilla, 2006), attenuate progression and development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (Wilson et al., 2002), and productively increase brain volume in areas concerned with spatial memory and executive function (Colcombe et al., 2006; Erickson et al., 2009). This final aspect of physical exercise, i.e., actual increased central nervous system development, is the subject of the Pajonk et al. study. Rather than the neurological developmental effects of exercise upon healthy, aged, or AD patients, Pajonk and colleagues have studied the actions of exercise upon the hippocampal regions of schizophrenic patients.

Hippocampal function and structure are sensitive to the environment
The hippocampus, primarily concerned with the acquisition and transfer of short-term memories, has been demonstrated to be exceptionally sensitive to volume alteration with cognitive or physical exercise paradigms (Boyke et al., 2008; Erickson et al., 2009; Pereira et al., 2007). Although pathology of the hippocampus is primarily linked to AD (Maudsley et al., 2007), abnormalities in the structure of this brain region have been reported in schizophrenia (Reif et al., 2006) and may contribute to defects in neural plasticity in this area.

Pajonk et al. have attempted to apply the well-known effects of exercise upon hippocampal structure and volume to patients presenting with schizophrenia. This group recruited patients with schizophrenia along with a healthy control group. Half of the schizophrenic group was exposed to a coordinated and supervised physical exercise regimen (cycling), while the rest of the schizophrenic patients were occupied for a similar period of time with a hand-eye coordination skill that did not induce significant physical exertion (table football). The control individuals were also placed on an exercise regimen (cycling), but oddly, none was subjected to the table football task, a potential flaw in the study’s experimental design.

Physical exercise increases hippocampal volume in schizophrenic patients
Crucial neurophysiological measurements were made in all the experimental subjects at the beginning of the study and after three months of the protocols. One of the primary indices measured, using magnetic resonance imaging, was the change in relative hippocampal volume. As one would expect, the control patients experiencing the exercise paradigm demonstrated a significant increase in hippocampal volume. In the patients with schizophrenia, this was mirrored only in the exercise group; those who played table football failed to show any increase in hippocampal volume.

Here it would have been interesting to have investigated the table football-playing actions in the control patients, as learning coordinated motor skills (without significant physical strain), such as juggling, can increase hippocampal volume in healthy adults (Draganski et al., 2004). Nevertheless, the exercise-induced increase in relative hippocampal volume was clearly apparent in the exercising patients who had schizophrenia. Therefore, it seems likely that the complex physiological response mechanisms required for the translation of physical activity to neuromodulatory effects are still intact even in patients with schizophrenia. At a certain level, the brains of these patients could be considered still relatively healthy and normal.

Schizophrenic patients respond in a unique manner to exercise
To assess the functional integrity of the newly created neurons in the hippocampus, Pajonk et al. studied the ratio of N-acetylaspartate (NAA) to the metabolite creatine (Cr). High N-acetylaspartate levels are often associated with healthy functional neurons and were consistently increased in the exercising patients with schizophrenia. In exercising control patients, the NAA:Cr ratio was relatively unchanged, and some subjects showed a marked reduction. This difference could point to a potentially different mechanism by which patients with schizophrenia increase hippocampal volume compared to control patients who demonstrate the same physiological response to exercise.

Reinforcing the ultrastructural and biochemical effect of exercise upon the schizophrenic hippocampus improved its functional integrity as well. The group with schizophrenia demonstrated a profound increase in short-term memory, while the non-exercising patients with schizophrenia demonstrated a reduction. In addition to proving beneficial for memory function, the exercise paradigm improved schizophrenic symptomology. The non-exercising patients with schizophrenia experienced a worsening of their symptomology.

Physical exercise regimens may improve neurological health in schizophrenic patients
Taken together, these interesting findings indicate that, as with healthy control individuals, the incredibly complex endogenous response mechanism to the strains of exercise is intact and functional in patients with schizophrenia. This excellent news will potentially allow the use of this simple therapeutic paradigm to treat patients with schizophrenia and those with other neurological disorders.

There are likely to be multiple mechanisms by which physical exercise can be translated into improved neurological health. These may include enhanced stress responses, elevation of neurotrophic agents such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor or insulin-like growth factor-1, improvement of cellular metabolism, and angiogenesis. Considerable research has demonstrated that many of these factors are implicated, but in truth the effects of exercise are likely due to a complex interaction of all these factors. It is excellent news that patients with schizophrenia still possess this ability to benefit from the effects of exercise upon the central nervous system.

Potential of pharmacotherapeutics that can mimic exercise
One caveat in this story is familiar to everyone: exercise is a “medicine” that not everyone wants to take. If physical activity were considered a pharmacotherapeutic, it would possess one of the worst compliance rates of any drug. If we could start to understand the endogenous exercise translating mechanisms, we may be able to shortcut the need for many hours at the gym and tap into these mechanisms to enhance the actions of a short jog to those only previously generated by weeks of training (Stranahan et al., 2009).

Even with the potential ability to mimic the effects of exercise, we must remember that these effects do not happen in a simple linear manner. The effects of training are generated by the complex interaction of tens or hundreds of individual factors; if we can start to understand such an intricate interplay between our physiology at rest and during exercise, we may eventually be able to therapeutically exploit this evolutionarily conserved benefit of exercise.

References:

Boyke J, Driemeyer J, Gaser C, Büchel C, May A. Training-induced brain structure changes in the elderly. J Neurosci. 2008 Jul 9;28(28):7031-5. Abstract

Erickson KI, Prakash RS, Voss MW, Chaddock L, Hu L, Morris KS, White SM, Wójcicki TR, McAuley E, Kramer AF. Aerobic fitness is associated with hippocampal volume in elderly humans. Hippocampus. 2009 Oct;19(10):1030-9. Abstract

Pereira AC, Huddleston DE, Brickman AM, Sosunov AA, Hen R, McKhann GM, Sloan R, Gage FH, Brown TR, Small SA. An in vivo correlate of exercise-induced neurogenesis in the adult dentate gyrus. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Mar 27;104(13):5638-43. Epub 2007 Mar 20. Abstract

Colcombe SJ, Erickson KI, Scalf, PE, Kim JS, Prakash R, McAuley E, Elavsky S, Marquez DX, Hu L, Kramer AF. Aerobic exercise training increases brain volume in aging humans. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2006;61:1166-70. Abstract

Vaynman S, Gomez-Pinilla F. Revenge of the "sit": how lifestyle impacts neuronal and cognitive health though molecular systems that interface energy metabolism with neuronal plasticity. J Neurosci Res. 2006;84:699–715. Abstract

Karp A, Paillard-Borg S, Wang HX, Silverstein M, Winblad B, Fratiglioni L. Mental, physical, and social components in leisure activities equally contribute to decrease dementia risk. Dement Geriat Cogn Disord. 2006;21:65–73. Abstract

Wilson RS, Mendes De Leon CF, Barnes LL, Schneider JA, Bienias JL, Evans DA, Bennett DA. Participation in cognitively stimulating activities and risk of incident Alzheimer disease. JAMA. 2002;287:742–8. Abstract

Winter B, Breitenstein C, Mooren FC, Voelker K, Fobker M, Lechtermann A, Krueger K, Fromme A, Korsukewitz C, Floel A, Knecht S. High impact running improves learning. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2007;87:597-609. Abstract

Maudsley S, Martin B, Luttrell LM. G protein-coupled receptor signaling complexity in neuronal tissue: implications for novel therapeutics. Curr Alzheimer Res. 2007 Feb;4(1):3-19. Abstract

Reif A, Fritzen S, Finger M, Strobel A, Lauer M, Schmitt A, Lesch KP. Neural stem cell proliferation is decreased in schizophrenia, but not in depression. Mol Psychiatry. 2006 May;11(5):514-22. Abstract

Draganski B, Gaser C, Busch V, Schuierer G, Bogdahn U, May A. Neuroplasticity: changes in grey matter induced by training. Nature. 2004 Jan 22;427(6972):311-2. Abstract

Stranahan AM, Zhou Y, Martin B, Maudsley S. Pharmacomimetics of exercise: novel approaches for hippocampally-targeted neuroprotective agents. Curr Med Chem. 2009;16(35):4668-78. Abstract

View all comments by Stuart Maudsley

Related News: Thinking Outside the Pillbox: Fish Oil and Exercise for Schizophrenia?

Comment by:  Anthony Hannan
Submitted 19 February 2010
Posted 19 February 2010
  I recommend the Primary Papers

These important new papers (Amminger et al., 2010; Pajonk et al., 2010) suggest interesting approaches for delaying/preventing onset of, and treating, schizophrenia. As the interventions, and cohorts, are very different, it is likely the therapeutic mechanisms are distinct; however, in both cases neurobiological insights may be provided by animal models.

The exercise study (Pajonk et al., 2010) is supported by experimental studies involving environmental manipulations of animal models, which may provide some insight into underlying mechanisms. There is prior evidence, in a knockout mouse model of schizophrenia exhibiting predictive validity, that environmental enrichment (which enhances mental/physical activity levels) from adolescence onwards can ameliorate schizophrenia-like endophenotypes (McOmish et al., 2008). While this model does exhibit hippocampal dysfunction, these mutant mice are also known to have abnormal activity-dependent synapse formation and/or elimination in the postnatal neocortex (Spires et al., 2005), and, therefore, the enhanced mental and physical activity may be inducing its beneficial effects via additional areas outside the hippocampus. In another mouse model of schizophrenia, with a mutation in the neuregulin-1 gene, a minimal form of environmental enrichment provided throughout development can also modulate specific behavioral endophenotypes (Karl et al., 2007).

Environmental enrichment provides opportunities for enhanced sensory, cognitive, and motor activity (exercise), and has been shown to induce beneficial effects in various animal models of neurological and psychiatric disorders (reviewed by Laviola et al., 2008; Sale et al., 2009). Increased physical activity alone has a range of effects, at molecular, cellular, and systems levels, on brain function and cognition (reviewed by Cotman et al., 2007; Hillman et al., 2008). While Pajonk et al. (2010) have identified the hippocampus as a region of interest, enhanced exercise clearly has the potential to induce beneficial effects via additional systems outside the hippocampus. One key aspect of applying these environmental interventions in valid animal models is that we might identify the molecular/cellular mechanisms mediating the beneficial effects, and thus pave the way for the development and optimization of new therapeutic approaches.

References:

Amminger GP, Schäfer MR, Papageorgiou K, Klier CM, Cotton SM, Harrigan SM, Mackinnon A, McGorry PD, Berger GE. Long-chain Ω-3 fatty acids for indicated prevention of psychotic disorders: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010 Feb;67(2):146-54. Abstract

Cotman CW, Berchtold NC, Christie LA. Exercise builds brain health: key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation. Trends Neurosci. 2007 Sep;30(9):464-72. Abstract

Hillman CH, Erickson KI, Kramer AF. Be smart, exercise your heart: exercise effects on brain and cognition. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008 Jan;9(1):58-65. Abstract

Karl T, Duffy L, Scimone A, Harvey RP, Schofield PR. Altered motor activity, exploration and anxiety in heterozygous neuregulin 1 mutant mice: implications for understanding schizophrenia. Genes Brain Behav. 2007 Oct;6(7):677-87. Abstract

Laviola G, Hannan AJ, Macrì S, Solinas M, Jaber M. Effects of enriched environment on animal models of neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders. Neurobiol Dis. 2008 Aug;31(2):159-68. Abstract

McOmish CE, Burrows E, Howard M, Scarr E, Kim D, Shin HS, Dean B, van den Buuse M, Hannan AJ. Phospholipase C-beta1 knockout mice exhibit endophenotypes modeling schizophrenia which are rescued by environmental enrichment and clozapine administration. Mol Psychiatry. 2008 Jul;13(7):661-72. Abstract

Pajonk F-G, Wobrock T, Gruber O, Scherk H, Berner D, Kaizl I, Kierer A, Müller S, Oest M, Meyer T, Backens M, Schneider-Axmann T, Thornton AE, Honer WG, Falkai P. Hippocampal plasticity in response to exercise in schizophrenia. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010 Feb;67(2):133-43. Abstract

Sale A, Berardi N, Maffei L. Enrich the environment to empower the brain. Trends Neurosci. 2009 Apr;32(4):233-9. Abstract

Spires TL, Molnár Z, Kind PC, Cordery PM, Upton AL, Blakemore C, Hannan AJ. Activity-dependent regulation of synapse and dendritic spine morphology in developing barrel cortex requires phospholipase C-beta1 signalling. Cereb Cortex. 2005 Apr;15(4):385-93. Abstract

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