DATE: April 23, 1997

Scotia Pharmaceuticals has reported that its phospholipase inhibitor, SC-111, produced "clinically- important and statistically-significant" benefits in 40 patients with schizophrenia. Results of the Phase II trial were presented this month at the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research in Colorado Springs, USA.

The patients, receiving conventional therapy which did not control their symptoms, were assigned to receive either SC-111 or placebo for a period of 12 weeks. Patients administered SC-111 did significantly better than those on placebo, reports the company, and experienced no side effects.

Scotia believes that schizophrenia may be caused by the abnormal activity of the phospholipase A2 enzyme. This enzyme overactivity is thought to damage cells by removing arachidonic acid and docosahexaenoic acid from the cell membranes, leading to a shortage of lipids in the brain, which in turn disturbs normal cell functioning, says the company.

Scotia also presented results from trials with its five-minute niacin skin test, which showed that 70% of schizophrenic patients had abnormal phospholipid metabolism. This test could prove invaluable in the diagnosis of schizophrenia and Scotia suggests that it may also help act as a guide to a positive clinical response with SC-111 treatment.

Other findings presented at the meeting were:

- that clozapine has been shown to have a major effect on cell membrane lipid composition, which may contribute to its therapeutic effects, says Scotia;

- that cell membranes in the schizophrenic patient are particularly susceptible to peroxidation;

- and that schizophrenic patients were found to have been breast fed to a lesser degree than normal controls. All these findings and add further weight to Scotia's lipid theory of schizophrenia, it says.

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