Clozapine has been regarded as the last-line antipsychotic agent for patients with refractory schizophrenia. However, many patients remain unresponsive to clozapine, referred to as “clozapineresistant”, “ultra-treatment-resistant”, or remain in incurable state. There has been no convincing evidence for augmentation on clozapine so far. Novel treatments including numerous N-methyl-Daspartate (NMDA) receptor (NMDAR) enhancers, such as glycine, D-serine, D-cycloserine, and Nmethylglycine (sarcosine) failed in clinical trials.
Earlier, the inhibition of D-amino acid oxidase (DAAO) that may metabolize D-amino acids and activate NMDAR has been reported to be beneficial for patients with schizophrenia receiving antipsychotics except for clozapine. A recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial found that add-on sodium benzoate, a DAAO inhibitor, improved the clinical symptoms in patients with clozapine- resistant schizophrenia, possibly through DAAO inhibition (and thereby NMDAR activation) and antioxidation as well; additionally, sodium benzoate showed no obvious side effects, indicating that the treatment is safe at doses up to 2 g per day for 6 weeks. More studies are warranted to elucidate the mechanisms of sodium benzoate for the treatment of schizophrenia and the etiology of this severe brain disease. If the finding can be reconfirmed, this approach may bring new hope for the treatment of the most refractory schizophrenia.
This review summarizes the current status of clinical trials and related mechanisms for treatmentresistant, especially, clozapine-resistant schizophrenia. The importance of understanding the molecular circuit switches is also highlighted which can restore brain function in patients with schizophrenia. Future directions in developing better treatments for the most difficult to cure schizophrenia are also discussed.
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