Objectives: Despite the burden of negative symptoms on quality of life in schizophrenic patients, no completely effective treatment has been developed to address such symptoms yet. Abnormalities in oxidative stress pathways have been recently demonstrated to be involved in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, and a growing interest in antioxidant agents is emerging for targeting negative symptoms of schizophrenia. N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties. This study aimed to evaluate the possible effects of NAC as an adjunct to risperidone in treating negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
Materials and methods: In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study, 42 patients with chronic schizophrenia and a score of 20 or greater on the negative subscale of positive and negative syndrome scale (PANSS) were enrolled in the active phase of their illness. The participants were equally randomized to receive NAC (up to 2 g/d) or placebo, in addition to risperidone (up to 6 mg/d) for 8 weeks. The participants were rated using PANSS every 2 weeks, and the decrease of PANSS negative subscale score was considered as our primary outcome.
Results: By the study end point, NAC-treated patients showed significantly greater improvement in the PANSS total (P = 0.006) and negative subscale (P < 0.001) scores than that in the placebo group, but this difference was not significant for positive and general psychopathology subscales. There was no significant difference between the 2 groups in the frequency of adverse effects.
Conclusions: NAC add-on therapy showed to be a safe and effective augmentative strategy for alleviating negative symptoms of schizophrenia.