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Zyprexa (olanzapine) was found to decrease brain loss in schizophrenia patients
according to the Archives of General Psychiatry.
New York, NY--- A new brain imaging study of recently
diagnosed schizophrenia patients has found, for the first
time, that the loss of gray matter typically experienced by
patients can be prevented by one of the new atypical
antipsychotic drugs, Zyprexa (olanzapine), but not by haloperidol, an
older, conventional drug. The study, published in today's
Archives of General Psychiatry, also confirmed previous
studies that show patients who experience less brain loss do
"This is a really big breakthrough," says the study's leader,
Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., director of the New York State Psychiatric
Institute and chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical
Center. "The drugs we have for schizophrenia can't cure people
who've been sick for years, but this study shows that the newer
atypical drugs, if started early, can prevent the illness from
progressing. If our findings are confirmed, one could argue that we
should treat new patients with atypical drugs like Zyprexa (olanzapine) rather
than older conventional medications such as haloperidol and
Gray matter contains the bulk of the brains cell's and the
billions of connections among the cells. Loss of gray matter in
patients with schizophrenia has been linked to social withdrawal and
progressive deterioration in cognition and emotion--which are among
the least responsive symptoms to medications.
To see if antipsychotic drugs could slow the initial brain
changes in new patients, Dr. Lieberman and colleagues at 14 sites in
North America and Europe measured brain volume and cognitive changes
in 263 first-episode schizophrenia patients and 58 non-schizophrenic
volunteers over a two-year period. Half of the patients received the
atypical antipsychotic Zyprexa (olanzapine) and the other half took the
conventional antipsychotic haloperidol. Dr. Lieberman initiated the
study when he was professor of psychiatry at the University of North
Carolina, which also coordinated the research.
The study found that, on average, haloperidol-treated patients
lost about two percent of their gray matter, or about 12 cubic
centimeters. No changes were detected in the olanzapine-treated
patients and the normal volunteers. Patients who lost gray matter,
particularly in the frontal lobe of the brain, also had greater
problems with cognitive functioning, as measured by tests of verbal
fluency, verbal learning and memory.
Schizophrenia has always been known as a disease that causes
progressive worsening of symptoms and deterioration in function, but
only in the last 10 years have researchers found that the brains of
schizophrenics are also progressively deteriorating.
"People used to think that the deterioration was inevitable, but
now we're thinking that if you can prevent the acute episodes of
psychosis in schizophrenia you can actually stop the loss of gray
matter," Dr. Lieberman says.
"It also gives us hope that we will be able to completely
forestall the disease in the future by intervening before psychosis
even begins," Dr. Lieberman adds. "In three to five years, we should
have ways to identify which adolescents will become schizophrenic,
and we can then begin to test the preventative power of treatments."
Columbia University Medical Center provides international
leadership in basic, pre-clinical and clinical research, medical
education, and health care. The medical center trains future leaders
in health care and includes the dedicated work of many physicians,
scientists, nurses, dentists, and other health professionals at the
College of Physicians & Surgeons, the School of Dental & Oral
Surgery, the School of Nursing, the Mailman School of Public Health,
the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and
Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. With a
strong history of some of the most important advances and
discoveries in health care, its researchers are leading the
development of novel therapies and advances to address a wide range
of health conditions.
NY State Psychiatric Institute (PI), founded in 1896,
continues to contribute importantly to knowledge about understanding
and treating psychiatric disorder and is ranked among the best
psychiatric research facilities in the world today. Noted for its
research on depression and suicide, schizophrenia, anxiety and child
psychiatric disorders, PI is also at the forefront of research
dedicated to unraveling the brain's mysteries. Its scientists
constitute the core of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia
University. In 2000, Dr. Eric Kandel was awarded the Nobel Prize in
Physiology or Medicine for research in his labs at PI on the
cellular basis of memory.
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