| May 28, 2002
Implant May Stabilize Schizophrenia
Patients' Treatment for a Full Year
Penn Researcher Designs Implantable Disc to Deliver
12 Months of Medication
PA) -- One of the greatest difficulties in treating
schizophrenia has always been helping patients to stay
on their medication. Now, that problem is closer to
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania's School
of Medicine have designed an implantable device
capable of delivering anti-psychotic medication for
a period of five months, and continuing work at Penn
indicates that such devices may work for up to a full
year. The device has been proven effective in initial
laboratory studies, and more research is underway (in
collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh School
of Medicine) to lead to potential clinical trials.
Findings from the small-mammal study appear in the current
issue of the scientific journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
If the device can be demonstrated to work effectively
in human subjects in future trials, it will offer a
medical alternative that may relieve many patients of
the threat of psychosis and chronic social instability.
"Schizophrenia destroys an individual's grasp of
reality, robbing him of his identity and devastating
his family," said Steven Siegel, MD, PhD,
of the Division of Neuropsychiatry in Penn's Department
of Psychiatry. This device could relieve those threats,
by assuring medical stability.
"Patients who need anti-psychotic drugs often fail
to comprehend the profound severity of their illness,
and may stop taking their medication during temporary
periods of impaired judgement. But when the majority
of patients with psychiatric disorders take appropriate
medicine, they do achieve periods of remission from
psychotic symptoms." Siegel said. "The advantage
of relying on an implantable anti-psychotic medicine
is that patients are able to make decisions about the
future course of their treatment during periods of relative
health, but if a medical reason arises that necessitates
curtailing treatment, the implant can be easily removed."
The delivery device consists of a surgically-implantable
disc made of biodegradable polymers (a series of linked
molecules) combined with medication. In the trials,
a traditional anti-psychotic medicine, Haloperidol,
was used. The discs have been modeled in a fashion that
allows each type of polymer to disintegrate at a specific
rate, so that exactly the prescribed volume of medication
is released into the bloodstream each day for up to
a year. About the size of a quarter, the device is held
in place under the skin with a single surgical stitch.
According to Siegel, the implantation procedure (and
removal procedure) can be performed in about 15 minutes
under local anesthetic.
Other Penn researchers who collaborated in the study
are: Karen I. Winey, PhD, Department of Materials
Science and Engineering; Raquel Gur, MD, PhD,
and Robert H. Lenox, MD, Department of Psychiatry;
Warren B. Bilker, PhD, Department of Biostatistics
and Epidemiology, and Debbie Ikeda, Neel Gandhi,
and Wen-Xiao Zhang, MS, also of Psychiatry.
Siegel's work is supported by the Stanley Foundation,
an advocacy organization for families of individuals
afflicted with schizophrenia. He has been named director
of the newly formed Stanley Center for Experimental
Therapeutics in Psychiatry at Penn. A patent application
for the implant technology is pending.