Background: Negative symptoms of schizophrenia are associated with adverse clinical outcomes, but there are few effective treatments. We aimed to assess the effects of pimavanserin, a selective 5-HT2A inverse agonist and antagonist, on negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
Methods: The ADVANCE study was a phase 2, 26-week, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of pimavanserin in stable outpatients with schizophrenia aged 18-55 years with predominant negative symptoms. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1) across 83 sites (18 in North America and 65 in Europe) to receive pimavanserin or placebo daily, added to an ongoing antipsychotic medication, per a computer-generated schedule (stratification by geographical region). Eligible patients had a score of at least 20 on the sum of seven Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) Marder negative factor items (and scores of ≥4 on at least three or ≥5 on at least two of negative symptom items). The starting dosage of 20 mg of pimavanserin or placebo could be adjusted to 34 mg or 10 mg within the first 8 weeks of the study, after which dosage remained stable until the end of the study. Both pimavanserin and placebo were administered orally once daily as two individual tablets (pimavanserin tablets were either 10 mg or 17 mg). The primary endpoint was change in total score using the 16-item Negative Symptom Assessment (NSA-16) from baseline to week 26. Primary outcomes were analysed in patients who received at least one dose of the study drug and had NSA-16 assessments at baseline and at least once post-baseline (full analysis set). Safety outcomes were analysed in patients who had received at least one dose of the study drug. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02970305, and is complete.
Findings: Between Nov 4, 2016, and April 16, 2019, we randomly assigned 403 patients to pimavanserin (n=201; 131 [65%] male; 187 [93%] White) or placebo (n=202; 137 [68%] male, 186 (92%) White), of whom 400 were included in the efficacy analysis (199 in the pimavanserin group, 201 in the placebo group). Mean age was 37·7 years (SD 9·4) in the pimavanserin group and 36·7 (9·2) years in the placebo group. The change in total NSA-16 score from baseline to week 26 was significantly improved with pimavanserin (least squares mean -10·4 [SE 0·67]) versus placebo (least squares mean -8·5 [0·67]; p=0·043; effect size: 0·211). The number of patients with treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs) was similar between groups: 80 (40%) patients experienced TEAEs in the pimavanserin group and 71 (35%) in the placebo group. Most TEAEs were headache (6% [n=13] vs 5% [n=10]) and somnolence (5% [n=11] vs 5% [n=10]). One patient from the placebo group reported severe headache (0·5%), rhinorrhoea (0·5%), cough (0·5%), and influenza (0·5%). In the pimavanserin group, one patient reported severe toothache (0·5%), and two patients had worsening of schizophrenia (1%). Mean change in QTcF interval was higher with pimavanerin (4·5 ms [SD 18·0]) than with placebo (0·0 ms [16·0]).
Interpretation: Stable patients with predominant negative symptoms of schizophrenia showed a reduction in negative symptoms after treatment with pimavanserin. However, given the small effect size, further investigation with optimised dosing is warranted to determine the clinical significance of this effect.
Funding: Acadia Pharmaceuticals.
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