Lilly schizophrenia drug shows promise in trials

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An experimental drug from Eli Lilly reduced schizophrenia symptoms in a clinical trial of 200 patients, according to a paper published in the journal Nature.

The drug, which does not yet have a name, is currently referred to as LY2140023.

Lilly is expected to begin a larger trial for the drug this month. If that trial confirms the results seen so far, it could mark a breakthrough in the treatment of schizophrenia, which affects about 2.5 million US adults.

“This is potentially one giant step forward for patients,” Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of the psychiatry department at Columbia University and lead investigator on a federally sponsored clinical trial of schizophrenia medicines told The New York Times. “This drug may turn out to be not just a comparably good antipsychotic agent, but a better antipsychotic agent.”

Dr. Lieberman has not been involved with the development of the Lilly medicine and does not receive any payment or consulting fees from Lilly, the Times noted.

The troubled history of Zyprexa, another antipsychotic from Lilly, could lead regulators to scrutinize the new medicine closely for hidden dangers.

LY2140023 could also have blockbuster potential for Lilly.

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder medicines are the fourth-best selling class of medicines in the US with sales of $12 billion, plus an additional $8 billion in the ex-US market.

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