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A Double-Blind, Randomized Study of Minocycline for the Treatment of Negative and Cognitive Symptoms in Early-Phase Schizophrenia

J Clin Psychiatry 2010;71(2):138-149
10.4088/JCP.08m04666yel

Background: Current antipsychotics have only a limited effect on 2 core aspects of schizophrenia: negative symptoms and cognitive deficits. Minocycline is a second-generation tetracycline that has a beneficial effect in various neurologic disorders. Recent findings in animal models and human case reports suggest its potential for the treatment of schizophrenia. These findings may be linked to the effect of minocycline on the glutamatergic system, through inhibition of nitric oxide synthase and blocking of nitric oxide–induced neurotoxicity. Other proposed mechanisms of action include effects of minocycline on the dopaminergic system and its inhibition of microglial activation.

Objective: To examine the efficacy of minocycline as an add-on treatment for alleviating negative and cognitive symptoms in early-phase schizophrenia.

Method: A longitudinal double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled design was used, and patients were followed for 6 months from August 2003 to March 2007. Seventy early-phase schizophrenia patients (according to DSM-IV) were recruited and 54 were randomly allocated in a 2:1 ratio to minocycline 200 mg/d. All patients had been initiated on treatment with an atypical antipsychotic ≤14 days prior to study entry (risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine, or clozapine; 200–600 mg/d chlorpromazine-equivalent doses). Clinical, cognitive, and functional assessments were conducted, with the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS) as the primary outcome measure.

Results: Minocycline was well tolerated, with few adverse events. It showed a beneficial effect on negative symptoms and general outcome (evident in SANS, Clinical Global Impressions scale). A similar pattern was found for cognitive functioning, mainly in executive functions (working memory, cognitive shifting, and cognitive planning).

Conclusions: Minocycline treatment was associated with improvement in negative symptoms and executive functioning, both related to frontal-lobe activity. Overall, the findings support the beneficial effect of minocycline add-on therapy in early-phase schizophrenia.

Trial Registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00733057


Submitted: August 25, 2008; accepted November 24, 2008.

Online ahead of print: November 3, 2009.

Corresponding author: Yechiel Levkovitz, MD, The Emotion-Cognition Research Center, The Shalvata Mental Health Care Center, P.O.B. 94. Hod-Hasharon, Israel (ylevk@clalit.org.il).