Pilot Study of Pramipexole for Anhedonia Symptoms in Unipolar Depression

March 29, 2021 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 
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At a recent scientific meeting, researcher Laura Hack described an open-label pilot study of pramipexole in participants with major depression including anhedonia, or inability to feel pleasure. Five participants with prominent anhedonia and major depression completed eight weeks of treatment with pramipexole, which activates dopamine D2 and D3 receptors. Four of the five who completed the study saw notable improvements in their anhedonia and quality of life.

The starting daily dose was 0.26 mg, which was increased every three days to a target dose of 2.0 mg per day. Two additional patients dropped out due to side effects (nausea, poor sleep, and headache).

Low activity in the ventral striatum, a part of the brain associated with decision-making and implicated in the brain’s reward system, correlated with the severity of the patients’ anhedonia. These results suggest that further studies are warranted.

Pramipexole has also shown positive effects in two small studies in bipolar depression. The drug is currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and also works in restless legs syndrome.

A Novel Drug Shows Promise in the Treatment of Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia

March 24, 2021 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 
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At a recent scientific meeting, Kenneth Koblan, Chief Scientific Officer at Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. reported on a new drug in development, SEP-363856, and its effects on negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

In both a 4-week double-blind study of participants with acute schizophrenia and in an open (non-blind) 6-month extension study, SEP-363856 was effective on negative symptoms. In the placebo-controlled acute study, those randomized to 50mg or 75mg of the drug showed improvement of moderate effect size in the following symptoms: blunted affect, avolition, anhedonia, asociality, and alogia. In the extension study, which consisted of 26 weeks of treatment with flexible doses (25/50/75 mg/day) of SEP-365846, patients improved further on multiple scales measuring negative symptoms.

SEP-363856 is a novel trace amine receptor 1 (TAAR1) agonist with serotonin 5-HT1A activity. Koblan and colleagues concluded, “These results suggest that activation of the TAAR1 receptor by SEP-363856, in the absence of D2 receptor blockade, may represent a promising approach to the treatment of negative symptoms in schizophrenia.”

Pimavanserin Prevents Relapse in Patients with Dementia-Related Psychosis

February 22, 2021 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 
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At a recent scientific meeting, Erin Foff of Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc. described a study of pimavanserin (a selective serotonin inverse agonist/antagonist at 5-HT2A receptors) in dementia-related psychosis. Pimavanserin is currently approved in the United States for the treatment of hallucinations and delusions associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD). There is currently no Food and Drug Administration–approved treatment for dementia-related psychosis.

Enrolled patients had moderate-to-severe psychosis associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, dementia with Lewy bodies, vascular dementia, or frontotemporal dementia. After a 12-week open label phase with flexible dosing and a target dosage of 34mg/day, 217 of the participants with a good response to pimavanserin were then randomized to continue pimavanserin or switch to placebo. The study was stopped early when a prespecified interim analysis revealed that pimavanserin was clearly superior to placebo. There was a more than 2.8-fold reduction in risk of relapse with pimavanserin compared to placebo in the double-blind period. Those on higher doses of 34mg/day showed a more than 3.4-fold reduced risk of relapse. Acadia will seek FDA approval for pimavanserin for the treatment of dementia-related psychosis.

Lumateperone Improves Bipolar Depression Symptoms

February 18, 2021 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 
elderly woman

At a recent scientific meeting, Suresh Durgam of Intra-Cellular Therapies, Inc. reported on a study of lumateperone tosylate for the treatment of bipolar depression. Lumateperone tosylate is a mechanistically novel antipsychotic that has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of schizophrenia.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the drug showed efficacy in bipolar I and II depression. In a 6-week study, 377 patients received either 42 mg/day of lumateperone or placebo, and 333 (87.4%) completed treatment. Lumateperone treatment significantly improved total scores on the Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) compared with placebo. Item analysis revealed that 8 of 10 MADRS items improved significantly in comparison with placebo by day 29, and all items did by day 43. The largest effects were in reported sadness, apparent sadness, inner tension and reduced sleep. Durgam and colleagues concluded that lumateperone at a dose of 42mg improves a broad range of symptoms in bipolar I and bipolar II depression.

Increased Oxygen Improves Depression

February 15, 2021 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

At a recent scientific meeting, researcher R. Haim Belmaker reported that giving mildly to moderately depressed adults a nasal tube that delivers extra oxygen overnight for four weeks produced dramatic antidepressant effects. A total of 55 participants aged 18–65 years old were randomized to receive either normal room air (made up of about 21% oxygen), or hyperoxia (air containing about 35% oxygen). There was greater improvement on several different depression rating scales, including the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, the Clinical Global Impression Scale, and the Sheehan Disability Scale, among those who received hyperoxia than among those who received normal air.

According to Belmaker, 69% of the patients who were treated with oxygen-enriched air improved on the CGI scale, compared to only 23% patients who were treated with room air. Limitations of the study were its small sample size and the lack of a clear biological mechanism for the effects of increased oxygen.

Childhood Physical Abuse Predicts Response to IV Ketamine

February 11, 2021 · Posted in Potential Treatments, Risk Factors · Comment 
Nurse Giving Patient Injection

At a recent scientific meeting, researcher Alan Swann reported the results of a study of intravenous ketamine in people with treatment-resistant depression. The 385 participants, who received four infusions of IV ketamine at a dosage of 0.5 mg/kg, could be grouped into three based on their type of response to the treatment.

One group had moderate depression at baseline and showed little change. A second group with severe baseline depression also showed minimal improvement. A third group who also had severe baseline depression had a rapid and robust antidepressant response to the treatment. This group had high scores relating to physical abuse on the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), but did not differ on other clinical variables. Swann and colleagues concluded, “Our outcomes show that IV ketamine should be considered as a primary treatment option for adults presenting with severe, treatment resistant depression and a self-reported history of childhood physical abuse. IV ketamine may not be as effective for moderately depressed individuals irrespective of childhood maltreatment.”

Sunovion Drug in Development Targets 5HT7 and D2 Receptors to Treat Bipolar Depression

February 8, 2021 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 
Depressed woman

At a recent meeting, President and CEO of Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Antony Loebel presented the results of a recent double-blind, placebo controlled study of a drug in development for the treatment of bipolar depression, currently known as SEP-4199. The drug has a fixed ratio of 85% aramisulpride and 15% esamisulpride that target serotonin 5-HT7 receptors and dopamine D2 receptors, respectively. The drug was optimized to amplify the antidepressant effects that come from affecting 5-HT7 while minimizing D2-related side effects.

A total of 344 patients were randomized into three equal groups, in which patients received placebo or a fixed dose of SEP-4199, either 200mg/day or 400mg/day.

The results were promising. After 6 weeks, scores on the Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) were higher among patients who received SEP-4199. The results were very close to statistical significance (p=0.054), with the placebo group showing a large improvement that may have contributed to the lack of difference across groups. In each dosage group, there was greater improvement in MADRS scores than was seen in the placebo group. There was also greater improvement on the Quick Inventory of Depression Symptomatology (QIDS-SR-16) and on the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) in each dosage group compared to placebo.

Loebel concluded that the results showed proof of concept for the use of SEP-4199 to treat bipolar depression, and they plan to continue their research on the drug.

Lurasidone Effective Long-Term in Pediatric Bipolar Depression

September 30, 2020 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

At the 2020 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology, researcher Manpreet Singh presented data showing that children aged 10–17 with bipolar depression had an excellent long-term response to the antipsychotic medication lurasidone (trade name Latuda).

Lurasidone has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as a monotherapy treatment of bipolar depression in children and adolescents since 2018. Following a six-week double-blind study comparing lurasidone with placebo in 305 children and adolescents, Singh and colleagues carried out an open-label extension study in which all of the young participants, including those in the placebo group, had the option of taking lurasidone for up to two more years.

Of those, 195 children completed one year of treatment, and 93 completed two years of treatment. Rates of response were 51.0% after the six-week preliminary study; 88.4% at one year; and 91.1% at two years. Rates of remission were 24.3% after the six-week study; 61.3% at one year, and 75.6% at two years, while rates of recovery were 17.7% after the preliminary study; 53.8% at one year; and 73.8% at two years.

This improvement in depression had a strong correlation with improvement in functioning, as measured by the Children’s Global Assessment score (CGAS). The results show progressive increases in rates of response, remission, and recovery with duration of treatment that are associated with improvement in functioning.

In Phase 3 Clinical Trials, Antipsychotic Treatment Lumateperone Is Found Effective in Bipolar Depression

September 21, 2020 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 
Photo by ben o’bro on Unsplash

Lumateperone is an antipsychotic medication that is currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of schizophrenia (under the trade name Caplyta). New studies suggest that the drug is also effective in bipolar I and bipolar II depression.

Lumateperone modulates the activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate. It modulates D1 and D2 dopamine receptors, partially activating presynaptic receptors while partially blocking postsynaptic receptors. Lumateperone acts as an antagonist blocking serotonin 5-HT2A receptors, and it augments activity at both NMDA and AMPA glutamate receptors.

Because of lumateperone’s complex pharmacology, it is not clear which of these activities are primarily responsible for its antidepressant and antipsychotic activities.

New research presented at the 2020 meeting of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders showed that lumateperone reduces bipolar depression.

Researcher Susan Kozauer presented research from a six-week study of 377 patients who were randomized to receive treatment with either 42mg of lumateperone (n=188), taken once daily in the evening, or placebo (n=189). The patients had been diagnosed with bipolar I or II disorder and were experiencing an episode of major depression.

Patients taking lumateperone saw significantly greater improvement in depression than those in the placebo group. Among those taking lumateperone, 60% of those who were markedly ill or worse at baseline improved to mildly ill or better, compared to 43% of those taking placebo.

Researcher Suresh Durgam described improvements in specific symptoms that make up the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) in those patients who received lumateperone. The greatest improvements compared to placebo were in sadness, inner tension, and reduced sleep. By the 29th day of the study, 8 of 10 items on the scale had improved significantly compared to placebo, and all items had improved by day 43.

The side-effects profile of lumateperone was presented by researcher Lakshmi Yatham.

Among those taking lumateperone, 8.5% experienced sleepiness compared to 1.1% of those in the placebo group, while 6.4% of the lumateperone group experienced nausea compared to 2.1% of the placebo group. Most effects were mild or moderate in severity. Changes in weight, metabolic measures, extrapyramidal motor effects, and prolactin were minimal in both the lumateperone group and the placebo group.

Editor’s Note: Lumateperone (Caplyta) joins a list of other atypicals that are efficacious in bipolar depression. These include olanzapine-fluoxetine (Symbyax), quetiapine (Seroquel), lurasidone (Latuda), and cariprazine (Vraylar). Lumateperone is currently only FDA-approved for schizophrenia, but approval for bipolar depression should be rapidly forthcoming based on the data presented at the ISBD meeting.

Bipolar depression used to be an orphan diagnosis, with few efficacious treatments. This is now beginning to change, and treating patients with bipolar disorder using antidepressants designed to treat unipolar depression (for which there is little evidence of efficacy) should begin to recede.

Danish Population-Based Study Identifies New Drug Candidates for Bipolar Disorder

July 17, 2020 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 
Aspirin was one of the drugs that looked promising as a potential treatment for bipolar disorder, along with statins and angiotensin agents.

At the 2020 meeting of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders, Lars Kessing of the Psychiatric Center Copenhagen described a study that examined incidence of bipolar disorder among a total of 1,605,365 participants who purchased one of six common medications over a ten-year-period, with the goal of identifying drugs that might be repurposed to prevent or treat bipolar illness. The drugs were non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs such as ibuprofen), low-dose aspirin, high-dose aspirin, statins, allopurinol, and angiotensin.

Because Denmark has population-based healthcare data, the researchers were able to identify participants who purchased these medications between 2005 and 2015, and could also assess these participants for two outcome measures: 1) whether they had received a diagnosis of mania or bipolar disorder as an inpatient or outpatient at a psychiatric hospital, and 2) a combined measure of whether they had received a diagnosis for mania or bipolar disorder in any setting or initiated lithium use. The data on these participants were compared to a random sample of 30% of the population of Demark.

Kessing and colleagues found that among those with steady use of low-dose aspirin, statins (used to lower blood cholesterol), and angiotensin agents (which can lower blood pressure), there was a significant decreased incidence of mania/bipolar disorder on both outcome measures.

In contrast, among those taking non-aspirin NSAIDs and high-dose aspirin, there was an increased incidence of bipolar disorder. (There were no statistically significant findings with regard to allopurinol, which is used to treat gout and kidney stones.)

The researchers concluded that population-based studies such as these can be used to identify drugs that may have secondary benefits, in this case low-dose aspirin, statins, and angiotensin agents, which have already been identified as potentially therapeutic in other research.

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