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UGA, MCG study impact of long-term use of schizophrenia drugs

Whether the long-term use of the newer schizophrenia drugs damages or improves a patient's cognitive ability is the focus of a cooperative study by the University of Georgia and the Medical College of Georgia.

Many of the older antipsychotics used to quell delusions and hallucinations - the hallmark of schizophrenia - also impair the ability to think, learn and remember, says Dr. Alvin V. Terry Jr., pharmacist and pharmacologist at UGA and MCG.

"Cognitive dysfunction has become a hot issue in schizophrenia research," says Dr. Terry, principal investigator on a $1.1 million National Institute of Mental Health grant to compare the cognitive effects of typical antipsychotics and their newer counterparts called atypicals.

Ironically, memory problems can result from the disease itself and the drugs can compound that problem, so that cognitive symptoms often are the most debilitating and difficult to treat, says Dr. Sahebarao P. Mahadik, neuroscientist at MCG and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta.

Schizophrenia affects 1 percent of people worldwide and is diagnosed at the mean age of 20. That early onset coupled with the disruptive behavior that can result from a lack of treatment means many of these patients are on medication lifelong.

Drs. Mahadik and Jennifer L. Waller, MCG biostatistician, are co-investigators on the study to help determine whether the atypical antipsychotics also contribute to cognition problems over the life of these patients.

"The traditional side effects always quoted for the older (typical) antipsychotic drugs are parkinsonian-type movement disorders," says Dr. Terry. In fact, that debilitating side effect is a primary reason that, outside of hospital walls, many patients refuse to take their medication, he says.

"It has always been a big dilemma," Dr. Mahadik says. "If you keep patients institutionalized, it costs a tremendous amount of money. If you give
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mail.mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
16-Sep-2003


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