A new study
shows that some anti-inflammatory medicines, such as aspirin, estrogen, and fluimucil, can improve the
efficacy of existing schizophrenia treatments.
The study was presented at the European College of
Neuropsychopharmacology conference in Berlin. For
some time, doctors have believed that helping the immune system may benefit the
treatment of schizophrenia, but until now there has been no conclusive evidence
that this would be effective.
a group of researchers at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands has
carried out a comprehensive meta-analysis of all robust studies on the effects
of adding anti-inflammatories to antipsychotic medication. This has allowed them
to conclude that anti-inflammatory medicines, such as aspirin, can add to the
effective treatment of schizophrenia.
has shown that the immune system is linked to certain psychiatric disorders,
such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Schizophrenia in particular is
linked to the HLA gene system, which is found on chromosome 6 in humans. The
HLA system controls many of the characteristics of the immune system.
researcher, Professor Iris Sommer (Psychiatry Department, University Medical Centre,
Utrecht, Netherlands), said, "The picture on anti-inflammatory agents in
schizophrenia has been mixed, but this analysis pulls together the data from 26
double-blind randomised controlled trials, and provides significant evidence
that some (but not all) anti-inflammatory agents can improve symptoms of
patients with schizophrenia. In particular, aspirin, estrogens (in women) and
the common antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (fluimicil) show promising results. Other anti-inflammatory agents, including celecoxib,
minocycline, davunetide, and fatty acids showed no significant effect."
spite the fact that schizophrenia affects around 24 million people worldwide,
treatment has not changed much in over 50 years, and largely relies on
correcting the regulation of dopamine in the brain of schizophrenia sufferers.
This has been shown to help symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions, but
has been unable to help many other symptoms such as decreased energy, lack of
motivation and poor concentration.
In addition, around 20 to 30% of all patients
don't respond to antipsychotic treatment. Co-treatment with anti-inflammatory
agents holds the possibility of improving patient's response to treatment.
also said, "The study makes us realise that we need to be selective
about which anti-inflammatory we use. Now that we know that some effects are
replicated, we need to refine our methods to see if we can turn it into a real
treatment. We have just started a multicenter trial using simvastatine to
reduce inflammation in the brain of patients with schizophrenia. Studies like
these will provide the proof-of-concept for targeting the immune system in
for the ECNP, Professor Celso Arango (Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón, Madrid) said, "Inflammation and oxidative stress
seem to be important factors in different mental disorders. Patients with
different mental conditions, including schizophrenia, have been shown to have
reduced antioxidants in the brain as well as excess inflammatory markers."
models and clinical trials have shown that antioxidants and anti-inflammatory
drugs could not only reduce symptoms associated with the disorders but also
prevent the appearance of neurobiological abnormalities and transition to
psychosis if given early during brain development. This work is a step towards
the possibility of better treatment, but we need more research in this area,
especially with younger subjects where we might expect more brain plasticity."