Osteoporosis Drug may also Be Effective in Schizophrenia

Raloxifene could become a new treatment option for post-menopausal women with schizophrenia.

A synthetic estrogen drug currently used to treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women may also be an efficacious therapy for women with schizophrenia, new research from Monash University shows.

Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, lead researcher and director of the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre (MAPrc), led a team that aimed to determine the efficacy of Raloxifene, a synthetic estrogen, in treating schizophrenia. Women who were given Raloxifene 120mg once daily showed a significantly greater improvement in symptoms of psychosis compared with women receiving lower doses or a placebo.

According to an abstract on the study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, “participants randomized to receive 120 mg/day raloxifene hydrochloride experienced a significantly more rapid recovery of total and general psychotic symptoms compared to both 60 mg/day raloxifene hydrochloride and placebo.”

"Many patients in this study had longstanding, persistent schizophrenia, so we are delighted that they experienced improvements in their mental well-being,” said Kulkarni, adding that “unlike estradiol, the standard estrogen found in the oral contraceptive pill or hormone replacement treatment, this type of estrogen did not have the side effects on breast, uterus and ovarian tissue that we worry about with other forms.”

Although the study findings are limited, given the small sample size, the researchers are cautiously optimistic that ongoing trials will “further confirm the positive therapeutic potential of the drug for postmenopausal women, and potentially for other cohorts.”

“The results were very promising,” Kulkarni said. “Under daily treatment with this 'brain estrogen', the women in the study had improvement in their key psychosis symptoms and also experienced enhanced memory and higher learning capacity. Our results indicate that this therapy really could revolutionize treatment options for women with schizophrenia. While at this stage we are just investigating its use in postmenopausal women, we are planning further research using hormone treatments in younger women and men suffering from psychotic illnesses.”