Background: A series of studies had demonstrated that deficient clearance of the large neutral amino acid phenylalanine was associated with tardive dyskinesia (TD), that the administration of the branched chain amino acids (BCAA) significantly decreased TD symptoms over placebo, and that the observed TD symptom reduction was significantly correlated with a diminished availability of phenylalanine to the brain of adult men with psychosis. As part of an initiative by the National Institute of Mental Health to expand the testing of treatments that were successful in adults to children and adolescents, the present pilot study was undertaken to test whether the BCAA would also reduce TD symptoms in children and adolescents. A 2-week trial of the BCAA was thus conducted in 6 children and adolescents (age range, 10.5-16.5 years) for the treatment of TD symptoms.
Method: A clinical diagnosis of TD was made in all subjects on the basis of a global score derived from the Simpson Abbreviated Dyskinesia Rating Scale. Subjects were videotaped for TD evaluation at baseline and after 1 and 2 weeks of BCAA treatment given in the form of a drink administered 3 times daily. TD symptom change over the trial period was evaluated by researchers blinded to the treatment status of the evaluation.
Results: TD symptom decreases were substantial in 5 of the 6 participants, ranging from 40% to 65%. Two of the subjects received an additional course of treatment, and further reductions in TD symptoms over those seen in the 2-week trial were observed.
Conclusion: The substantial symptom decrease and tolerability observed suggest the use of the BCAA formulation for the treatment of TD in children and adolescents and warrant further large-scale studies.