Clinical Trials of Potential Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs in Schizophrenia: What Have We Learned So Far?

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Abstract

In light of the number of studies conducted to examine the treatment of cognitive impairment associated with schizophrenia (CIAS), we critically reviewed recent CIAS trials. Trials were identified through searches of the website “www.clinicaltrials.gov” using the terms “schizophrenia AND cognition,” “schizophrenia AND neurocognition,” “schizophrenia AND neurocognitive tests,” “schizophrenia AND MATRICS,” “schizophrenia AND MCCB,” “schizophrenia AND BACS,” “schizophrenia AND COGSTATE,” and “schizophrenia AND CANTAB” and “first-episode schizophrenia AND cognition.” The cutoff date was 20 April 2011. Included trials were conducted in people with schizophrenia, the effects on cognition were either a primary or secondary outcome, and the effect of a pharmacologically active substance was examined. Drug challenge, pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic, or prodrome of psychosis studies were excluded. We identified 118 trials, with 62% using an add-on parallel group design. The large majority of completed trials were underpowered to detect moderate effect sizes, had ≤8 weeks duration, and were performed in samples of participants with chronic stable schizophrenia. The ongoing add-on trials are longer, have larger sample sizes (with a number of them being adequately powered to detect moderate effect sizes), and are more likely to use a widely accepted standardized cognitive battery (eg, the MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery) and MATRICS guidelines. Ongoing studies performed in subjects with recent onset schizophrenia may help elucidate which subjects are most likely to show an effect in cognition. New insights into the demands of CIAS trial design and methodology may help increase the probability of identifying treatments with beneficial effect on cognitive impairment in schizophrenia.

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