New Treatment for Schizophrenia and Bipolar DisorderThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Saphris tablets (asenapine) to treat adults with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

“Mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can be devastating to patients and families, requiring lifelong treatment and therapy,” said Thomas Laughren, M.D., director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

“Effective medicines can help people with mental illness live more independent lives.”

The most common symptoms of schizophrenia include hearing voices, or seeing things that are not there, having false beliefs (for example, believing that others are controlling thoughts, reading minds, or plotting harm), and being inappropriately suspicious or paranoid. These thoughts may be terrifying and can cause fearfulness, withdrawal, agitation or violence.

Bipolar I Disorder is a chronic, severe, and recurrent psychiatric disorder that causes alternating periods of depression and high, increased activity and restlessness, racing thoughts, talking fast, impulsive behavior, and a decreased need for sleep.

Saphris is in a class of drugs called atypical antipsychotics. All atypical antipsychotics contain a boxed warning, the FDA’s strongest warning. The warning alerts doctors who prescribe the medication about an increased risk of death associated with off-label use of these drugs to treat behavioral problems in older people with dementia-related psychosis (a brain disorder that lessens the ability to remember, think, and reason).

Saphris is not approved for these patients and should not be prescribed in such a manner.

The efficacy of Saphris in treating schizophrenia was studied in three short-term placebo-controlled and active-drug controlled clinical trials. In two of the trials Saphris demonstrated superior efficacy compared to an inactive pill (placebo) in reducing the symptoms of schizophrenia.

The efficacy of Saphris in the treatment of bipolar disorder was studied in two short-term placebo-controlled and active-drug controlled clinical trials in which Saphris was shown to be superior to placebo in treating symptoms of bipolar disorder.

The most common adverse reactions reported by patients in clinical trials being treated for schizophrenia with Saphris were the inability to sit still or remain motionless (akathisia), decreased oral sensitivity (oral hypoesthesia) and drowsiness (somnolence).

The most common adverse reactions reported by patients in clinical trials using Saphris to treat bipolar disorder were drowsiness, dizziness, movement disorders other than akathisia and weight increase.

Saphris is manufactured by Schering-Plough, Kenilworth, N.J.

Source: FDA news release