January 30, 2018  Print

A new clinical drug trial recruiting participants in Westmead, Blacktown and Parramatta may help people living with schizophrenia to better manage their disease.

The trial will investigate whether a nutritional supplement, called N-acetylcysteine (NAC), can improve treatment outcomes for people living with schizophrenia when taken together with the antipsychotic medication, Clozapine. 

The trial aims to use NAC to improve negative symptoms of schizophrenia such as loss of memory, slow thinking, disorganisation, lack of motivation, and poor emotional and social skills.

Dr Anthony Harris, from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research and Westmead Hospital, who is leading the Sydney-site trial, believes that using NAC together with Clozapine may deliver better outcomes for patients without adding unnecessary burden.

“Clozapine is an effective antipsychotic drug to treat schizophrenia, but almost half of patients still experience ongoing symptoms even on right doses of the medication.

“By using NAC together with drug Clozapine, we are hoping to target the negative symptoms of the disease. 

“If this trial is successful, we will establish NAC as safe, cheap, reliable and easy-to-use supplementary treatment in patients who don’t respond fully to Clozapine,” Dr Harris said.

NAC is an over-the-counter antioxidant that has a range of uses, including a dietary supplement, treating paracetamol overdose, and loosening mucus in individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The trial will be a double-blind study: one where neither the participants nor the researchers know who is receiving the actual drug and who was receiving a placebo, in order to prevent bias in research results.

Using NAC together with Clozapine may deliver better outcomes for people living with Schizo without adding unnecessary burden

People participating in the trial will continue to see their usual treating team, but will also see Dr Harris and his treating team four times throughout the trial.  Participants will also be supported with regular phone calls and feedback from the treating team.

Trial coordinator, Reinette De Wet, who oversees the study in Sydney, said she is optimistic the trial will improve lives for people living with schizophrenia.

“Schizophrenia is a very misunderstood illness.  People are often chronically unwell, not working, and require many services over a long period.

“We hope this trial will deliver better outcomes for participants, improve their self-confidence and give their life back,” she concluded.

The trial is led by Professor David Castle at the University of Melbourne, and will also recruit participants in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane.

People interested in participating in the trial should contact Reinette De Wet on 0420 232 789.