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Latest Results for Psychopharmacology

Monday, July 8, 2019

July 2019

New drugs: where did we go wrong and what can we do better?

The British Medical Journal


More than half of new drugs entering the German healthcare system have not been shown to add benefit. Beate Wieseler and colleagues argue that international drug development processes and policies are responsible and must be reformed
Medicines regulators around the world are pursuing a strategy aimed at accelerating the development and approval of drugs.12 These approaches are based on the assumption that faster access to new drugs benefits patients. The rhetoric of novelty and innovation creates an assumption that new products are better than existing ones.
But although gaps in the therapeutic armamentarium undoubtedly exist, research covering drug approvals since the 1970s suggests only a limited number of new drugs provide real advances over existing drugs.3456789 Most studies put the proportion of true innovation at under 15%, with no clear improvement over time.
No evidence of added benefit for most new drugs.

Comparative efficacy and tolerability of 32 oral antipsychotics for the acute treatment of adults with multi-episode schizophrenia: a systematic review and network meta-analysis

The Lancet


Schizophrenia is one of the most common, burdensome, and costly psychiatric disorders in adults worldwide. Antipsychotic drugs are its treatment of choice, but there is controversy about which agent should be used. We aimed to compare and rank antipsychotics by quantifying information from randomised controlled trials.

We did a network meta-analysis of placebo-controlled and head-to-head randomised controlled trials and compared 32 antipsychotics. We searched Embase, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, PubMed, BIOSIS, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, and from database inception to Jan 8, 2019. Two authors independently selected studies and extracted data. We included randomised controlled trials in adults with acute symptoms of schizophrenia or related disorders. We excluded studies in patients with treatment resistance, first episode, predominant negative or depressive symptoms, concomitant medical illnesses, and relapse-prevention studies. Our primary outcome was change in overall symptoms measured with standardised rating scales. We also extracted data for eight efficacy and eight safety outcomes. Differences in the findings of the studies were explored in metaregressions and sensitivity analyses. Effect size measures were standardised mean differences, mean differences, or risk ratios with 95% credible intervals (CrIs). Confidence in the evidence was assessed using CINeMA (Confidence in Network Meta-Analysis). The study protocol is registered with PROSPERO, number CRD42014014919.

We identified 54 417 citations and included 402 studies with data for 53 463 participants. Effect size estimates suggested all antipsychotics reduced overall symptoms more than placebo (although not statistically significant for six drugs), with standardised mean differences ranging from −0·89 (95% CrI −1·08 to −0·71) for clozapine to −0·03 (−0·59 to 0·52) for levomepromazine (40 815 participants). Standardised mean differences compared with placebo for reduction of positive symptoms (31 179 participants) varied from −0·69 (95% CrI −0·86 to −0·52) for amisulpride to −0·17 (−0·31 to −0·04) for brexpiprazole, for negative symptoms (32 015 participants) from −0·62 (−0·84 to −0·39; clozapine) to −0·10 (−0·45 to 0·25; flupentixol), for depressive symptoms (19 683 participants) from −0·90 (−1·36 to −0·44; sulpiride) to 0·04 (−0·39 to 0·47; flupentixol). Risk ratios compared with placebo for all-cause discontinuation (42 672 participants) ranged from 0·52 (0·12 to 0·95; clopenthixol) to 1·15 (0·36 to 1·47; pimozide), for sedation (30 770 participants) from 0·92 (0·17 to 2·03; pimozide) to 10·20 (4·72 to 29·41; zuclopenthixol), for use of antiparkinson medication (24 911 participants) from 0·46 (0·19 to 0·88; clozapine) to 6·14 (4·81 to 6·55; pimozide). Mean differences compared to placebo for weight gain (28 317 participants) ranged from −0·16 kg (−0·73 to 0·40; ziprasidone) to 3·21 kg (2·10 to 4·31; zotepine), for prolactin elevation (21 569 participants) from −77·05 ng/mL (−120·23 to −33·54; clozapine) to 48·51 ng/mL (43·52 to 53·51; paliperidone) and for QTc prolongation (15 467 participants) from −2·21 ms (−4·54 to 0·15; lurasidone) to 23·90 ms (20·56 to 27·33; sertindole). Conclusions for the primary outcome did not substantially change after adjusting for possible effect moderators or in sensitivity analyses (eg, when excluding placebo-controlled studies). The confidence in evidence was often low or very low.

There are some efficacy differences between antipsychotics, but most of them are gradual rather than discrete. Differences in side-effects are more marked. These findings will aid clinicians in balancing risks versus benefits of those drugs available in their countries. They should consider the importance of each outcome, the patients' medical problems, and preferences.

novel bacterial virulence factor inhibitor for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease 

Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2019

The gingipain hypothesis of Alzheimer’s disease, with P. gingivalis as an etiologic agent, is supported by scientific literature from multiple disciplines and several independent labs. COR388 is a promising drug for the treatment of AD with a novel mechanism of action. COR388 inhibits the Kgp gingipain protease secreted by P. gingivalis, essential for pathogen survival and virulence. COR388 is readily bioavailable after oral administration with a favorable PK profile and CNS penetration in humans, with target plasma concentrations for efficacy reached. COR388 was well tolerated and AD patients treated with COR388 for 28 days demonstrated significant reduction in several pharmacodynamic biomarkers including plasma RANTES and pathological ApoE fragments in CSF. There was also a trend of improvement in some cognitive tests in AD patients treated with COR388, in contrast to subjects receiving placebo. Cortexyme is currently enrolling a 570 patient Phase 2/3 study of COR388 assessing the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of two dose levels of COR388 for a 48-week treatment period in subjects with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. This potentially pivotal study is now ongoing. 


Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 


No study has gathered evidence from all randomized clinical trials (RCTs) with anti‐inflammatory drugs measuring antidepressant effects including a detailed assessment of side‐effects and bias.

We performed a systematic review identifying RCTs published prior to January 1, 2018, studying antidepressant treatment effects and side‐effects of pharmacological anti‐inflammatory intervention in adults with major depressive disorder (MDD) or depressive symptoms. Outcomes were depression scores after treatment, remission, response, and side‐effects. Pooled standard mean differences (SMD) and risk ratios (RR) including 95% confidence intervals (95%‐CI) were calculated.

We identified 36 RCTs, whereof 13 investigated NSAIDs (N = 4214), 9 cytokine inhibitors (N = 3345), seven statins (N = 1576), 3 minocycline (N = 151), 2 pioglitazone (N = 77), and 2 glucocorticoids (N = 59). Anti‐inflammatory agents improved depressive symptoms compared to placebo as add‐on in patients with MDD (SMD = −0.64; 95%‐CI = −0.88, −0.40; I2 = 51%; N = 597) and as monotherapy (SMD = −0.41; 95%‐CI = −0.60, −0.22; I2 = 93%, N = 8825). Anti‐inflammatory add‐on improved response (RR = 1.76; 95%‐CI = 1.44–2.16; I2 = 16%; N = 341) and remission (RR = 2.14; 95%‐CI = 1.03–4.48; I2 = 57%; N = 270). We found a trend toward an increased risk for infections, and all studies showed high risk of bias.

Anti‐inflammatory agents improved antidepressant treatment effects. Future RCTs need to include longer follow‐up, identify optimal doses and subgroups of patients that can benefit from anti‐inflammatory intervention.


The Lancet


Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for global disease burden, and data on alcohol exposure are crucial to evaluate progress in achieving global non-communicable disease goals. We present estimates on the main indicators of alcohol exposure for 189 countries from 1990–2017, with forecasts up to 2030.

Adult alcohol per-capita consumption (the consumption in L of pure alcohol per adult [≥15 years]) in a given year was based on country-validated data up to 2016. Forecasts up to 2030 were obtained from multivariate log-normal mixture Poisson distribution models. Using survey data from 149 countries, prevalence of lifetime abstinence and current drinking was obtained from Dirichlet regressions. The prevalence of heavy episodic drinking (30-day prevalence of at least one occasion of 60 g of pure alcohol intake among current drinkers) was estimated with fractional response regressions using survey data from 118 countries.

Between 1990 and 2017, global adult per-capita consumption increased from 5·9 L (95% CI 5·8–6·1) to 6·5 L (6·0–6·9), and is forecasted to reach 7·6 L (6·5–10·2) by 2030. Globally, the prevalence of lifetime abstinence decreased from 46% (42–49) in 1990 to 43% (40–46) in 2017, albeit this was not a significant reduction, while the prevalence of current drinking increased from 45% (41–48) in 1990 to 47% (44–50) in 2017. We forecast both trends to continue, with abstinence decreasing to 40% (37–44) by 2030 (annualised 0·2% decrease) and the proportion of current drinkers increasing to 50% (46–53) by 2030 (annualised 0·2% increase). In 2017, 20% (17–24) of adults were heavy episodic drinkers (compared with 1990 when it was estimated at 18·5% [15·3–21·6%], and this prevalence is expected to increase to 23% (19–27) in 2030.

Based on these data, global goals for reducing the harmful use of alcohol are unlikely to be achieved, and known effective and cost-effective policy measures should be implemented to reduce alcohol exposure.



The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Spravato (esketamine) nasal spray, in conjunction with an oral antidepressant, for the treatment of depression in adults who have tried other antidepressant medicines but have not benefited from them (treatment-resistant depression). Because of the risk of serious adverse outcomes resulting from sedation and dissociation caused by Spravato administration, and the potential for abuse and misuse of the drug, it is only available through a restricted distribution system, under a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS).

"There has been a long-standing need for additional effective treatments for treatment-resistant depression, a serious and life-threatening condition," said Tiffany Farchione, M.D., acting director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Controlled clinical trials that studied the safety and efficacy of this drug, along with careful review through the FDA’s drug approval process including a robust discussion with our external advisory committees, were important to our decision to approve this treatment. Because of safety concerns, the drug will only be available through a restricted distribution system and it must be administered in a certified medical office where the health care provider can monitor the patient."

Patients with major depressive disorder who, despite trying at least two antidepressant treatments given at adequate doses for an adequate duration in the current episode, have not responded to treatment are considered to have treatment-resistant depression.

The Spravato labeling contains a Boxed Warning that cautions that patients are at risk for sedation and difficulty with attention, judgment and thinking (dissociation), abuse and misuse, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors after administration of the drug. Because of the risk of sedation and dissociation, patients must be monitored by a health care provider for at least two hours after receiving their Spravato dose. 


JAMA Psychiatry


Children and youths who are prescribed antipsychotic medications have multiple, potentially fatal, dose-related cardiovascular, metabolic, and other adverse events, but whether or not these medications are associated with an increased risk of death is unknown.

To compare the risk of unexpected death among children and youths who are beginning treatment with antipsychotic or control medications.

Design, Setting, and Participants  
This retrospective cohort study was conducted from 1999 through 2014 and included Medicaid enrollees aged 5 to 24 years in Tennessee who had no diagnosis of severe somatic illness, schizophrenia or related psychoses, or Tourette syndrome or chronic tic disorder. Data analysis was performed from January 1, 2017, to August 15, 2018.

Current, new antipsychotic medication use at doses higher than 50 mg (higher-dose group) or 50 mg or lower chlorpromazine equivalents (lower-dose group) as well as control medications (ie, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder medications, antidepressants, or mood stabilizers) (control group).

Main Outcomes and Measures  
Deaths during study follow-up while out of hospital or within 7 days after hospital admission, classified as either deaths due to injury or suicide or unexpected deaths. Secondary outcomes were unexpected deaths not due to overdose and death due to cardiovascular or metabolic causes.

This study included 189 361 children and youths in the control group (mean [SD] age, 12.0 [5.1] years; 43.4% female), 28 377 in the lower-dose group (mean [SD] age, 11.7 [4.4] years; 32.3% female), and 30 120 in the higher-dose group (mean [SD] age, 14.5 [4.8] years; 39.2% female). The unadjusted incidence of death in the higher-dose group was 146.2 per 100 000 person-years (40 deaths per 27 354 person-years), which was significantly greater than that in the control group (54.5 per 100 000 population; 67 deaths per 123 005 person-years) (P < .001). The difference was primarily attributable to the increased incidence of unexpected deaths in the higher-dose group (21 deaths; 76.8 per 100 000 population) compared with the control group (22 deaths; 17.9 per 100 000 population). The propensity score–adjusted hazard ratios were as follows: all deaths (1.80; 95% CI, 1.06-3.07), deaths due to unintentional injury or suicide (1.03; 95% CI, 0.53-2.01), and unexpected deaths (3.51; 95% CI, 1.54-7.96). The hazard ratio was 3.50 (95% CI, 1.35-9.11) for unexpected deaths not due to overdose and 4.29 (95% CI, 1.33-13.89) for deaths due to cardiovascular or metabolic causes. Neither the unadjusted nor adjusted incidence of death in the lower-dose group differed significantly from that in the control group.

Conclusions and Relevance  
The findings suggest that antipsychotic use is associated with increased risk of unexpected death and appear to reinforce recommendations for careful prescribing and monitoring of antipsychotic treatment for children and youths and to underscore the need for larger antipsychotic treatment safety studies in this population.


American Journal of Psychiatry

Preclinical evidence and data from a proof-of-concept study in healthy volunteers suggest that samidorphan, an opioid antagonist, mitigates weight gain associated with olanzapine. This study prospectively compared combination therapy of olanzapine plus either samidorphan or placebo for the treatment of schizophrenia.

This was an international, multicenter, randomized phase 2 study of olanzapine plus samidorphan in patients with schizophrenia. The study had a 1-week open-label olanzapine lead-in period followed by a 12-week double-blind treatment phase in which patients were randomly assigned in a 1:1:1:1 ratio to receive olanzapine plus placebo (N=75) or olanzapine plus 5 mg (N=80), 10 mg (N=86), or 20 mg (N=68) of samidorphan. The primary aims were to confirm that the antipsychotic efficacy of olanzapine plus samidorphan was comparable to olanzapine plus placebo, to assess the effect of combining olanzapine with samidorphan on olanzapine-induced weight gain, and to assess the overall safety and tolerability of olanzapine plus samidorphan.

Antipsychotic efficacy, as assessed by total score on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), was equivalent across all treatment groups. Treatment with olanzapine plus samidorphan resulted in a statistically significant lower weight gain (37% lower weight gain compared with olanzapine plus placebo). The least square mean percent change from baseline in body weight was 4.1% (2.9 kg) for the olanzapine plus placebo group and 2.6% (1.9 kg) for the olanzapine plus samidorphan group (2.8% [2.1 kg] for the 5 mg group, 2.1% [1.5 kg] for the 10 mg group, and 2.9% [2.2 kg] for the 20 mg group). Adverse events reported at a frequency ≥5% in any of the olanzapine plus samidorphan groups and occurring at a rate ≥2 times greater than in the olanzapine plus placebo group were somnolence, sedation, dizziness, and constipation. Other safety measures were comparable between the olanzapine plus samidorphan groups and the olanzapine plus placebo group.

The antipsychotic efficacy of olanzapine plus samidorphan was equivalent to that of olanzapine plus placebo, and olanzapine plus samidorphan was associated with clinically meaningful and statistically significant mitigation of weight gain compared with olanzapine plus placebo. Olanzapine plus samidorphan was generally well tolerated, with a safety profile similar to olanzapine plus placebo.


The British Journal of Psychiatry


Research on the risk of stroke following the use of mood stabilisers specific to patients with bipolar disorder is limited.

In this study, we investigated the risk of stroke following the exposure to mood stabilisers in patients with bipolar disorder.

Data for this nationwide population-based study were derived from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database. Among a retrospective cohort of patients with bipolar disorder (n = 19 433), 609 new-onset cases of stroke were identified from 1999 to 2012. A case–crossover study design utilising 14-day windows was applied to assess the acute exposure effect of individual mood stabilisers on the risk of ischaemic, haemorrhagic and other types of stroke in patients with bipolar disorder.

Mood stabilisers as a group were significantly associated with the increased risk of stroke in patients with bipolar disorder (adjusted risk ratio, 1.26; P = 0.041). Among individual mood stabilisers, acute exposure to carbamazepine had the highest risk of stroke (adjusted risk ratio, 1.68; P = 0.018), particularly the ischaemic type (adjusted risk ratio, 1.81; P = 0.037). In addition, acute exposure to valproic acid elevated the risk of haemorrhagic stroke (adjusted risk ratio, 1.76; P = 0.022). In contrast, acute exposure to lithium and lamotrigine did not significantly increase the risk of any type of stroke.

Use of carbamazepine and valproic acid, but not lithium and lamotrigine, is associated with increased risk of stroke in patients with bipolar disorder.


The New England Journal of Medicine


The prescription use of the stimulants methylphenidate and amphetamine for the treatment of attention deficit–hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been increasing. In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration mandated changes to drug labels for stimulants on the basis of findings of new-onset psychosis. Whether the risk of psychosis in adolescents and young adults with ADHD differs among various stimulants has not been extensively studied.

We used data from two commercial insurance claims databases to assess patients 13 to 25 years of age who had received a diagnosis of ADHD and who started taking methylphenidate or amphetamine between January 1, 2004, and September 30, 2015. The outcome was a new diagnosis of psychosis for which an antipsychotic medication was prescribed during the first 60 days after the date of the onset of psychosis. To estimate hazard ratios for psychosis, we used propensity scores to match patients who received methylphenidate with patients who received amphetamine in each database, compared the incidence of psychosis between the two stimulant groups, and then pooled the results across the two databases.

We assessed 337,919 adolescents and young adults who received a prescription for a stimulant for ADHD. The study population consisted of 221,846 patients with 143,286 person-years of follow up; 110,923 patients taking methylphenidate were matched with 110,923 patients taking amphetamines. There were 343 episodes of psychosis (with an episode defined as a new diagnosis code for psychosis and a prescription for an antipsychotic medication) in the matched populations (2.4 per 1000 person-years): 106 episodes (0.10%) in the methylphenidate group and 237 episodes (0.21%) in the amphetamine group (hazard ratio with amphetamine use, 1.65; 95% confidence interval, 1.31 to 2.09).

Among adolescents and young adults with ADHD who were receiving prescription stimulants, new-onset psychosis occurred in approximately 1 in 660 patients. Amphetamine use was associated with a greater risk of psychosis than methylphenidate. 


Online Journals:

Biological Psychiatry - Volume 86, Issue 3, August 2019

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