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By Saumya Joseph
April 9 (Reuters) - Alkermes Plc said on Tuesday its long-acting injectable therapy for schizophrenia has helped reduce symptoms and can become an effective option for ensuring patients stay on medication even after being discharged from hospital.
The six-month study showed that Alkermes' Aristada, given every two months, was as effective as Johnson & Johnson's monthly injectable Invega Sustenna, with both helping to achieve statistically significant improvements in schizophrenia symptoms.
In comparison to long-acting therapies (LATs), commonly prescribed oral antipsychotics are to be taken daily and a brief disruption in treatment can worsen symptoms.
"The results validate the role that long-acting atypical antipsychotics can play in rapidly and effectively stabilizing patients in the hospital and supporting their continuity of care after discharge," study investigator Dr. Jelena Kunovac said in a statement.
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder, marked by hallucinations and depression, that affects more than 2.4 million people in the United States.
Patients that get hospitalized are often sent back with daily oral drugs that they may have trouble adhering to.
Studies show that more than 15 percent of discharged patients are readmitted within 30 days, the company said.
"There is very little support given in their transition of care and patients fall between the cracks of the treatment system often if that support is not there," Alkermes Chief Medical Officer Craig Hopkinson told Reuters.
About 75 percent of patients become non-adherent to their medications within two years, he added.
LATs for schizophrenia could eliminate the burden of taking daily oral antipsychotics and support medication adherence. However, only 11 percent of patients with schizophrenia in the United States are treated with LATs.
Prescription rates remain low for a variety of reasons. Most patients are not aware of the injectable treatments, or they don't like injections.
In other cases, physicians themselves prefer to keep patients on oral drugs and switch to LATs as the last resort.
"These results will really help inform and educate the psychiatric community and physicians on the use of long-acting injectables," Hopkinson said.
The most common side effects observed with LATs during the trial were pain from needles, increase in weight and restlessness, the company said in a statement.
Alkermes is also developing ALKS 3831, which was found to help keep weight gain, a common side effect of antipsychotic medicines, under check and is expected to submit its U.S. marketing application this year.
(Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)