High-dose schizophrenia treatment crosses blood-brain barrier

Researchers in Finland have developed a way to penetrate the blood-brain barrier to treat schizophrenia, flooding it with high doses of the over-the-counter heartburn medicine famotidine.

The study at the University of Helsinki was the first to test the effects of blocking the histamine H2 receptor--histamine is a regulator and signaling substance in the brain, and a change in histamine levels affects brain chemistry in such a way that reduces symptoms of schizophrenia, according to previous animal research.

The drug famotidine, used to inhibit stomach acid production for heartburn and other gastrointestinal problems, generally does not cross the blood-brain barrier at all. But the research team found that, by increasing the dose 5-fold, the drug can penetrate the barrier and block the histamine receptors, according to AlphaGalileo Foundation.

In the 30-patient placebo-controlled study, lead scientist Jesper Ekelund showed a statistically significant decrease in schizophrenia symptoms after four weeks of treatment. Before histamine receptors, treatment of schizophrenia relied heavily on dopamine as the central role in psychosis, according to the report, and histamine represents an alternative to that approach.

The Ekelund research group will conduct a larger multinational study with the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden to replicate the finding.

- here's the AlphaGalileo report