Implant Helps Schizophrenics Stay on Meds

Medically Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD
From the WebMD Archives


May 31, 2002 -- Getting a mentally unstable person to take his or her medications as directed is one of the biggest challenges in treating people with schizophrenia. But a new device may provide a solution.


Researchers have developed an implant that can deliver a steady dose of medication directly to the bloodstream for up to a year, according to early animal tests. The results of their findings appear in the current issue of Neuropsychopharmacology.


The device consists of a disc the size of a quarter that contains antipsychotic medicine (Haloperidol in the current study). Layers within the disc dissolve slowly at a designated rate to allow the right amount of medicine to enter the blood stream.


Initial tests in laboratory rats found that the implants successfully delivered a steady stream of the drug for five months. Further research on the device also suggests that the device may work for up to a year and could lead to clinical trials of the device in humans.


"Schizophrenia destroys an individual's grasp of reality, robbing him of his identity and devastating his family," says study author Steven Siegel, MD, PhD, of the division of neuropsychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine, in a new release.


"Patients who need antipsychotic drugs often fail to comprehend the profound severity of their illness, and may stop taking their medication during temporary periods of impaired judgment," says Siegel. "But when the majority of patients with psychiatric disorders take appropriate medicine, they do achieve periods of remission from psychotic symptoms."


Siegel says another advantage of using an implant is that patients are able to make decisions about their future treatment during periods of relative health. But if a medical situation arises that requires a change in treatment, the implant can be removed easily.


According to Siegel, implantation and removal of the device take about 15 minutes and likely can be performed with just a local anesthetic.