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  • New hope to cut side effects of anti-psychotic drugs

    Author: AAP

A new coating for anti-psychotic drugs mitigates weight gain as a side effect and boosts serotonin levels, offering the potential to change lives, researchers say.

Researchers at the University of South Australia tested Lurasidone, a drug used in the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar depression, and found the new coatings improved drug absorption by eight-fold, and overcame side effects such as weight gain.

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The coatings are created from tiny core-shell particles made from the dietary fibre, inulin, and bioactive medium chain triglycerides.

The inulin shell boosts the gut microbiome by providing an energy source for gut bacteria, while the medium chain triglycerides encourage drug absorption into the bloodstream.

Lead researcher Paul Joyce said microbiota-targeting microcapsules have the potential to improve treatment outcomes of mental health medications.

"Most patients suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are prescribed a range of antipsychotic medications, which trigger significant adverse effects by disrupting the gut microbiome – the microbial ecosystem that naturally colonises the gut," Dr Joyce said.

"The most notable side effect is weight gain, with many patients often seeing increases of between 10 to 15 per cent of their body weight after just three months of treatment.

"Because the gut microbiome plays a major role in regulating overall health, especially mood and cognition, the detrimental impact of these medications on the microbiome often makes them counterproductive."

Instead of improving mood and cognition, the medication leads to a cascading cycle of poor mental and metabolic health as patients struggle with excess weight and mental health issues, he said.

Because the drugs were being reformulated rather than developed as new medications, they could be fast-tracked for clinical use within the next few years rather than the 10 to 15 years usually required for new approvals.

The serotonin boost, up to 250 per cent, delivered by the new coating was an important benefit because this provided an additional mechanism for regulating serotonin levels beyond the actual drug molecule, Dr Joyce said.

Low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that also acts as a hormone, play a role in depression, anxiety, mania and other health conditions.

Next steps for the research, funded by the Hospital Research Foundation Group, are to test the efficacy of the re-formulated drugs in human patients, with longer-term goals to extend use across all mental health therapies, including anti-depressants.

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