Recent research has been looking into a long-standing hypothesis: Does estrogen prove to be helpful for female patients with schizophrenia? The hypothesis holds that estrogen has protective and mitigating effects on women with schizophrenia, which may explain why women are less likely to have schizophrenia and when they do, they typically have a later age of onset compared to males, and report having better prognosis and treatment responses.
This may be due to how estrogen modulates dopamine and serotonin transmission. Women with schizophrenia have shown lower estrogen levels than women without the illness. As well, schizophrenia onset and relapse for women occur most often when estrogen levels drop in the menstruation cycle or during menopause when estrogen levels decrease. Researchers have been looking into estrogen replacement therapy to determine if it will be effective for treating schizophrenia patients.
Recent research has begun to look at agents with estrogen-like effects such as the selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) raloxifine, to see if it will be effective when added to conventional antipsychotics. Manufactured by Eli Lilly & Co. under the brand name Evista, raloxifine is a preventive therapy for osteoporosis, and does not affect uterine and breast tissue the way estrogen does.
Schizophrenia researcher Judith Usall, MD, PhD, from Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Déu, in Barcelona, Spain, explained her work in the estrogen hypothesis during her presentation at the fourth International Congress of Medicine and Women's Mental Health.
In 2011, 33 postmenopausal women with schizophrenia were included in a randomized, placebo-controlled study by Usall and colleagues. They discovered that their regular antipsychotic treatment plus the addition of 60 mg of raloxifene daily improved schizophrenia symptoms within 12 weeks (compared to antipsychotics alone).
"My main objective is to improve the treatment of patients with schizophrenia, as well as to improve our knowledge of the etiology of schizophrenia," Usall said. "If our trial and others confirm and expand upon our positive results, I think that the use of raloxifene could be recommended in postmenopausal patients."
Researchers continue to study patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and the effects that estrogen has on their symptoms.
Source: Digital Journal