A Non-D2-Receptor-Binding Drug for the Treatment of Schizophrenia

N Engl J Med. 2020 Apr 16;382(16):1497-1506. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1911772.


Background: An oral compound, SEP-363856, that does not act on dopamine D2 receptors but has agonist activity at trace amine-associated receptor 1 (TAAR1) and 5-hydroxytryptamine type 1A (5-HT1A) receptors, may represent a new class of psychotropic agent for the treatment of psychosis in schizophrenia.

Methods: We performed a randomized, controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy and safety of SEP-363856 in adults with an acute exacerbation of schizophrenia. The patients were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive once-daily treatment with SEP-363856 (50 mg or 75 mg) or placebo for 4 weeks. The primary end point was the change from baseline in the total score on the Positive and Negative Symptom Scale (PANSS; range, 30 to 210; higher scores indicate more severe psychotic symptoms) at week 4. There were eight secondary end points, including the changes from baseline in the scores on the Clinical Global Impressions Severity (CGI-S) scale and the Brief Negative Symptom Scale (BNSS).

Results: A total of 120 patients were assigned to the SEP-363856 group and 125 to the placebo group. The mean total score on the PANSS at baseline was 101.4 in the SEP-363856 group and 99.7 in the placebo group, and the mean change at week 4 was -17.2 points and -9.7 points, respectively (least-squares mean difference, -7.5 points; 95% confidence interval, -11.9 to -3.0; P = 0.001). The reductions in the CGI-S and BNSS scores at week 4 were generally in the same direction as those for the primary outcome, but the results were not adjusted for multiple comparisons. Adverse events with SEP-363856 included somnolence and gastrointestinal symptoms; one sudden cardiac death occurred in the SEP-363856 group. The incidence of extrapyramidal symptoms and changes in the levels of lipids, glycated hemoglobin, and prolactin were similar in the trial groups.

Conclusions: In this 4-week trial involving patients with an acute exacerbation of schizophrenia, SEP-363856, a non-D2-receptor-binding antipsychotic drug, resulted in a greater reduction from baseline in the PANSS total score than placebo. Longer and larger trials are necessary to confirm the effects and side effects of SEP-363856, as well as its efficacy relative to existing drug treatments for patients with schizophrenia. (Funded by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02969382.).

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Least-Squares Analysis
  • Male
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / agonists
  • Schizophrenia / classification
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Serotonin 5-HT1 Receptor Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Serotonin 5-HT1 Receptor Agonists
  • Trace amine-associated receptor 1

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02969382