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HBCU Writers's Project
For Immediate Release
March 31, 2012
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Alaura Carter
Florida A&M University

(BPRW) New Drug May Combat Side Effects of Schizophrenia

(BLACK PR WIRE/FAMU-TALLAHASSEE) – One in seventeen Americans lives with a serious mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that one in four adults – approximately 57.7 million Americans – experience a mental health disorder in a given year. Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder, which includes symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, movement disorders, and at times violent outbursts. Schizophrenia affects 1.19% of the U.S. population and 64% of people with the disease receive some sort of treatment for it, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

However, there is a Florida A&M University professor who has come up with a new drug to help with the treatment of schizophrenia. Seth Ablordeppey, Ph.D. and Donald M.N. Sikawze, Ph.D. have invented and patented a new drug to combat the side effects of the two most commonly used drugs on the market.

The two types of drugs that combat the illness – Haloperidol and Clozapine – come with negative side effects. Haloperidol, discovered in the 1950’s and used to treat the disease, often causes Parkinson’s-like side effects such as loss of the ability to control movement and loss of control of one’s hands. Clozapine may cause little to no Parkinsonism side effects, but causes weight gain that leads to Type II diabetes.

Drs. Ablordeppey and Sikazwe were able to take the drug Haloperidol and change the structure to eradicate the causes of the Parkinson’s-like side effects and maintain the structure similar to Haloperidol, according to Ablordeppey. They started working on the drug in 1993 upon arriving to FAMU.

In essence, Ablordeppey and Sikazwe have created a schizophrenia medication that has therapeutic benefits without Parkinson’s-like side effects. There has already been successful animal testing of the drug. Ablordeppey and Sikazwe received a patent for their breakthrough drug through the Florida A&M University Office of Technology Transfer, Licensing & Commercialization. The next step is human testing by a pharmaceutical company. There is a pharmaceutical company interested in developing the drug further; details are still in discussions among the company and the inventors. It takes close to 1 billion dollars and 12-15 years from development of a drug to final production of the drug to prepare it for the market.

According to Ablordeppey, this drug could lead to the development of other drugs that may be useful for antidepressants. “Right now we are developing other drugs that will be useful as antidepressants, they would treat depression. The strategies we are using are also unique and we are hoping to . . . be able to submit a patent application for those as well,” said Ablordeppey.

Schizophrenia is a growing problem in the African American community. According to the International Journal of Epidemiology, “African Americans have a three times higher likelihood of developing schizophrenia.” Those with schizophrenia often are unaware they have the disease and those that are aware may not take the medications prescribed because of the negative side effects.

“People feel like, ‘I’m not a part of society just simply because I have a mental illness,’ mental illness is just like any other illness. One of the reasons people fail to take their medications is because they have all these side effects associated with the medications. You take the medication and you can’t walk….you may give up on it... [however], because we are able to take care of the side effects our hope is that, that will make the individuals feel confident that, ‘I can take the drugs and do the rest of the things [I used] to do,’” said Ablordeppey.

For those with schizophrenia and family members of those with the disease, this drug could be an encouragement to seek and continue treatment for the disease. “Mental illness is a family illness. It doesn’t just affect one person, but in a sense the whole family goes through it as well,” said Ablordeppey. In 2008, the global market value of schizophrenia medications exceeded $15 billion and is expected to surpass $17 billion by 2015. Successful future trials of the drug can result in production and consumption in the very near future.

Office of Technology Transfer Licensing and Commercialization Director Tanaga A. Boozer commented, “I believe that as a university that resides in an urban community, it is important to do things that educate the students within the community. [It is important] not only to educate but conduct research with a benefit to the community.”