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Ask the Mental Health Expert Archives 2001-2004

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Q. I work with autistic children. Recently a parent asked if I knew of a new medication on the market called "Abilify". Because it is relatively new, I can't find any information on it. Could you please tell me what the drug does and what the side effects are? Where can I locate information on it?

A. This new antipsychotic medication's generic name is aripiprazole. Aripiprazole has a unique receptor binding profile that combines partial agonist activity at D2 (dopamine-2) and 5HT1A (serotonin) receptors, with potent antagonism at 5HT2A receptors.

Clinical studies in acute schizophrenic relapse, chronic schizophrenia and acute mania show it is sinificantly more effective than placebo. Once-daily aripiprazole 15-30 mg is as effective as haloperidol 10 mg/day and risperidone 6 mg/day in short-term treatment of schizophrenia and more effective than haloperidol 7-10 mg/day in maintenance of response in chronic schizophrenia.

Aripiprazole appears to be well tolerated, with most studies suggesting a frequency of adverse effects similar to placebo. (This may change as clinical experience is gained in real-world patients, rather than research subjects). Unlike many of the other atypical antipsychotics, aripiprazole seems not to cause significant extrapyramidal side effects, prolactin elevation, excessive weight gain, problems with blood sugar, or cardiac rhythm disturbances. For a review of this promising agent, see DM Taylor, Int J Clin Pract. 2003 Jan-Feb;57(1):49-54.

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August 2003

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