Clinical trial is underway for new drug to treat OCD.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) affects approximately 1-2 percent of Americans. It’s a chronic disorder that can render those suffering with it helpless to do anything about unwanted and repetitive behaviors and thoughts that won’t go away. Symptoms, which can begin gradually in childhood, and vary in severity throughout one’s life, include an uncontrollable thought or fear of such things as germs, or the urge to have objects arranged in a specific order. In addition to repetitive movements, people with OCD often experience agitation, anxiety, depression and social isolation. They’re almost always in a state of constant distress brought on by their obsessions for orderliness, washing and cleaning, counting, hoarding, and/or following a strict routine. In the extreme, sufferers of OCD can conjure up images of suicide or harming others. In other words, this is not only excessive worrying about viable concerns in one’s life; this is an illness made up of irrational thoughts that can be all consuming, interfering with one’s daily life.

While there is no way to prevent OCD, and no specific cause, except for possibly genetics or environment, there are medications to treat the illness. Unfortunately, they often only have a minimal effect, but if left untreated, symptoms can become more severe. There hasn’t been a new FDA-approved treatment for OCD in several years, but that could all be changing. A phase 2 study is currently underway to find a new medication for better treatment of this crippling condition.

Psychiatrist Donald Anderson of Desert Valley Research in Rancho Mirage has been working in the field of clinical trials since 1998 and is a principal investigator for studies. He is also part of a national clinical trial that’s currently testing a new drug candidate to more effectively treat OCD. Known as BHV-4157, this study drug aims to regulate glutamate, a naturally occurring messenger (neurotransmitter) in the brain, which helps brain cells communicate with each other. Existing medications for OCD target serotonin and dopamine, two other messengers in the brain. 

During this phase 2 study of BHV-4157, researchers will be looking at safety, efficacy, and whether patients’ conditions improve, compared to patients given a placebo, or sugar pill. In phase 3, the study will be open-label, meaning all patients will be given BHV-4157. Participants are needed for the study and qualifications include those who have been diagnosed with OCD, but whose medications are not helping them. 

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Janet Zappala is an Emmy award winning anchor and reporter and creator and host of Your Health Matters.

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