Antipsychotic drugs
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Antipsychotic drugs. Anti-psychotic drugs. The CNS functionally is the most complex part of the body, and understanding drug effects is difficult Understanding the effects of drugs on neurones does not predict the effect on the whole organ

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Anti-psychotic drugs

  • The CNS functionally is the most complex part of the body, and understanding drug effects is difficult

  • Understanding the effects of drugs on neurones does not predict the effect on the whole organ

  • In part this is due to complex interactions mediated by different neurotransmitters

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  • Important neurotransmitter

  • Present mainly in the nigrostriatal pathway

  • There are two main types of dopamine receptor: D1 and D2 . These stimulate and inhibit adenylate cyclase respectively.

  • D2 receptors are mainly responsible for the actions of anti-psychotic drugs

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Dopamine - functions

  • Motor control - nigrostriatal system. Deficiency results in rigidity, tremor and difficulty initiating movement

  • Behavioral effects - mesolimbic system. Overactivity in rats leads to abnormal behavior

  • Endocrine control - tubero-infundibular system. Dopamine and dopamine agonists suppress prolactin release, dopamine antagonists may stimulate it

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Schizophrenia - Dopamine hypothesis

  • Amphetamine can produce a syndrome similar to the ‘positive’ features of schizophrenia

  • Levodopa may aggravate the condition

  • Apomorphine and bromocriptine (D2 agonists) produce behavioral abnormalities in animals

  • D2 receptor antagonists are effective in controlling the positive features of the disorder

  • ? Increased D2 receptor binding in the brains of schizophrenic subjects. Evidence of genetic variation in the D4 receptor to which some anti-psychotic drugs have high affinity

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Anti-psychotic Drugs -5HT (serotonin)

  • Some drugs also act at 5-HT receptors (antagonists of 5HT2)

  • 5-HT has a modulatory effect on dopaminergic neurones

  • LSD which has mixed agonist/antagonist actions produces hallucinations and behavioral disturbance

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Anti-psychotic Drugs - Modes of Action

  • All anti-psychotic drugs have inhibitory effects on the D2 receptor

  • Some have actions against the D4 receptor

  • All have other effects - to varying degrees

    • Serotonin blockade (may improve negative symptoms)

    • Histamine H1 blockade (drowsiness)

    • Alpha adrenoceptor blockade (postural hypotension)

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How do we know they work?

  • mostly “accidentally” for early drugs - designing drugs to reduce anxiety in surgical patients

  • clinical experience

  • clinical trials - especially more recent drugs

  • PET scanning showing blockade of central D2 receptors

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Anti-psychotic Drugs - Clinical Effects

  • Control the ‘positive’ features of the disease, but little effect on the ‘negative’ features (clozapine may be superior in this regard)

  • The main side-effects are on the extrapyramidal motor system - leading to rigidity, tremor, and loss of mobility and dyskinesia

  • Tardive dyskinesia is a late onset disorder characterised by repetitive abnormal movements of face and upper limbs. This may be due to proliferation of D2 receptors in the striatum

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Clinical Effects cont

  • Newer ‘atypical’ anti-psychotic drugs are less inclined to produce these effects - possible due to their greater affinity for the mesolimbic over the striatal areas of the brain

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Anti-psychotic Drugs - Other Effects

  • some are effective anti-emetics

  • anti-muscarinic effects lead to dry mouth, blurred vision, difficulty with micturition

  • a antagonist effects lead to hypotension

  • antihistamine effects (H1 receptor) lead to drowsiness

  • prolactin stimulation may lead to breast development

  • agranulocytosis is fairly common with an ‘atypical’ drug - clozapine

  • ‘Neuroleptic malignant syndrome’ is a rare but serious effect leading to autonomic instability and hyperthermia

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“classical/ typical”

chlopromazine (gen)

haloperidol (gen)

fluphenazine (gen)

thioridazine (auth)

note: classification is based on fewer EPS side-effects,fewer long-term ADRs, efficacy in treatment-resistant groups, negative symptoms


clozapine (sec100)

risperidone (auth)

olanzapine (auth)

quetiapine (auth)

Classification of anti-psychotic drugs

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newer drugs

  • claims:

    • lower doses

    • reduced side effects

    • more effective (especially negative symptoms)

    • better compliance

  • evidence?

    • trials have been quite small and involved patients previously heavily treated and somewhat ‘resistant’

    • trials have tended to show equivalent efficacy and better side effect profiles with newer drugs

    • head to head trials claimed superiority of olanzapine over risperidone (but company sponsored and controversial); some “parallel publications”

  • costs

    • Much higher with new drugs (10-40 times higher)

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Final Slide - summary of the actions of different

anti-psychotic drugs at different receptors



TABLE 37.1