A 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of donepezil adjunctive treatment to risperidone in chronic and stable schizophrenia

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There is considerable incentive to develop new treatment strategies that effectively target cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. One of the theoretically promising novel treatment candidates is acetylcholinesterase inhibitors that increase the synaptic levels of cholinergic, nicotinic, and muscarinic receptor activity. The purpose of this study was to assess the efficacy of donepezil as an adjuvant agent in the treatment of chronic schizophrenia in particular for cognitive impairments. This investigation was a 12-week, double-blind study of parallel groups of patients with stable chronic schizophrenia. Thirty patients were recruited from inpatient and outpatient departments, age ranging from 22 to 44 years. All participants met DSM-IV-TR. diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia. To be eligible, patients were required to have been treated with a stable dose of risperidone as their primary antipsychotic treatment for a minimum period of 8 weeks. The subjects were randomized to receive donepezil (10 mg/day) or placebo, in addition to risperidone (4–6 mg/day). Clinical psychopathology was assessed with Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS). Cognition was measured by a cognitive battery. Patients were assessed by a psychiatrist at baseline and after 8, and 12 weeks after the medication started. The PANSS scores and cognitive performance were used as the outcome measures. The donepezil group had significantly greater improvement in the negative symptoms over the 12-week trial. There were no differences between the donepezil and placebo groups on any neurocognitive assessments at endpoint (week 12). The present study indicates donepezil as a potential adjunctive treatment strategy for negative symptoms of chronic schizophrenia.

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