June 08, 2006

Nicotine-like drug showing positive benefits in schizophrenia

We've reported previously on how research has shown that nicotine helps people with schizophrenia with concentration and thought processes (though smoking cigarettes is the worst possible way to get nicotine and is never recommended - see our special report for details on less harmful means of using nicotine). We've also reported on new companies that are focused on developing drugs that provide the benefit of nicotine (or even more benefits than nicotine), but without the negative health effects that nicotine and cigarettes have (one such company is Targacept).

Now a new drug that has nicotine-like properties, called DMXB-A, has shown in a preliminary research study to improve the mental function of patients being treated with anti-psychotic drugs for schizophrenia.

Researchers noted in a paper published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, that the nicotinic receptors in the brain, which are involved in the brain's machinery for processing sensory input, are dysfunctional in schizophrenia.

In an early phase, proof-of-concept study, Dr Robert Freedman, of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, and colleagues tested DMXB-A in 12 people diagnosed with schizophrenia who were taking anti-psychotic medications.

All patients in the study were nonsmokers for at least one month prior to the trial, to avoid any interaction with long-term exposure to nicotine.

In this small study there were two doses of DMXB-A tested, and compared with inactive "placebo" treatment.

The researchers reported that they observed "significant neurocognitive improvement" with active treatment in scores on a test for assessing mental performance. Only the lower dose caused significant improvements in overall scores.

"Two patients spontaneously remarked that the drug helped them think more clearly and maintain concentration," the researchers report.

As a result of the positive findings, Freedman said a phase II trial has been initiated, with DMXB-A given twice a day for 2 months.

SOURCE: Proof-of-Concept Trial of an {alpha}7 Nicotinic Agonist in Schizophrenia, Archives of General Psychiatry, June 2006.

For more information: Schizophrenia.com Special report on Brain Disorders, Smoking and Nicotine Addiction.

Schizophrenia and Nicotine Research News


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