Implant may stabilize schizophrenia patients' treatment

(Philadelphia, PA) -- One of the greatest difficulties in treating schizophrenia has always been helping patients to stay on their medication. Now, that problem is closer to being solved.

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine have designed an implantable device capable of delivering anti-psychotic medication for a period of five months, and continuing work at Penn indicates that such devices may work for up to a full year. The device has been proven effective in initial laboratory studies, and more research is underway (in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine) to lead to potential clinical trials.

Findings from the small-mammal study appear in the current issue of the scientific journal Neuropsychopharmacology. If the device can be demonstrated to work effectively in human subjects in future trials, it will offer a medical alternative that may relieve many patients of the threat of psychosis and chronic social instability.

"Schizophrenia destroys an individual's grasp of reality, robbing him of his identity and devastating his family," said Steven Siegel, MD, PhD, of the Division of Neuropsychiatry in Penn's Department of Psychiatry. This device could relieve those threats, by assuring medical stability.

"Patients who need anti-psychotic drugs often fail to comprehend the profound severity of their illness, and may stop taking their medication during temporary periods of impaired judgement. But when the majority of patients with psychiatric disorders take appropriate medicine, they do achieve periods of remission from psychotic symptoms." Siegel said. "The advantage of relying on an implantable anti-psychotic medicine is that patients are able to make decisions about the future course of their treatment during periods of relative health, but if a medical reason arises that necessitates curtailing treatment, the implant can be easily removed."

The delivery devic

Contact: Ellen O'Brien
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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