Schizophrenia is a severe psychiatric illness that occurs in 1 out of 100 Americans. Often, individuals who live with schizophrenia have difficulties maintaining interpersonal relationships, careers and even independent living.
Thankfully, schizophrenia is highly treatable, making it possible for most individuals with the disorder to live comparatively normal lives. The key word, however, is “most.” For one reason or another, some individuals experience a more difficult recovery than others. Scientists continue to craft new medications, investigate new therapies and generally work toward making life with schizophrenia easier for everyone.
The new medication
In early October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug to treat schizophrenia: aripiprazole lauroxil (brand name Aristada). Aripiprazole lauroxil is an injectable drug that is administered by a health care professional every four to six weeks into a patient’s arm or buttocks. Once inside the body, aripiprazole lauroxil is converted to aripiprazole, an antipsychotic medication that is commercially known as Abilify. Like Abilify, this new drug significantly reduces the symptoms associated with schizophrenia with only minimal side effects.
What makes Aristada different from Abilify? Not only is Aristada administered via injection (as opposed to orally), but it was developed to allow controlled release. In other words, the drug is slowly released within the body over a set period of time, making its effects last considerably longer than oral medications effects. Aripiprazole lauroxil’s unique formulation also allows for multiple dose strengths and dosing intervals, improving a clinician’s ability to provide individualized care.
The benefits of injectable drugs
Why bother crafting an injectable drug when an oral version already exists? Unfortunately, many individuals with schizophrenia fail to take oral medication reliably. Patients might forget to take a dose or may choose to stop taking medication once their symptoms dissipate. Research has indicated that failing to reliably take medication is the most common cause of relapse in individuals with schizophrenia.
One way to increase medication adherence is to move at-risk individuals from an oral to an injectable regimen. Medication adherence consistently improves when patients are switched from oral to injectable medication. These improvements likely arise because physicians and caregivers — not the patient — are responsible for the regularity and frequency of the medication injections.
The more treatment options, the better
Everyone is different, both inside and out. Some people have brown eyes; some people have blue eyes. Some people respond to talk therapy; some people do better with cognitive behavioral therapy. Some people tolerate medication; some people don’t. To treat a wide variety of individuals, scientists need to craft diverse treatments suitable for every body type and every circumstance. Aripiprazole lauroxil brings us closer to helping as many people as possible.