Schizophrenia patients in the UK now have access to a new treatment option following the launch of Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen-Cilag’s Invega (paliperidone), the follow-up to its antipsychotic blockbuster Risperdal (risperidone).

Approval was based on clinical trials of Invega in over 1,800 patients, which showed a significant and meaningful improvement in the symptoms of schizophrenia and that the drug was well tolerated.

Invega’s unique mode of delivery - via an osmotic system created by US firm Alza - allows for a consistent supply of medicine over a 24-hour period, reducing peaks and troughs in plasma concentrations, and permitting once-daily dosing. All other oral atypical antipsychotics licensed in the UK, such as Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa (olanzapine) and AstraZeneca’s Seroquel (quetiapine), are immediate release.

Competition from Seroquel?

But Invega could face competition next year from an extended-release version of Seroquel, which, as a spokeswoman for AstraZeneca told PharmaTimes UK, is already on the US market and is expected to be approved in the UK next year.

A spokesperson for Resolute Communications told PharmaTimes UK News that a 28-day pack of Invega costs £97.28 but, as the AstraZeneca spokeswoman explained, comparing prices of atypicals in schizophrenia can be misleading, as the therapeutic doses necessary for treatment differ between patients.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved Invega (paliperidone), the first new schizophrenia drug to be approved since 2003, at the end of last year, and J&J clearly hopes that the compound will help maintain its leading position in that market as its Risperdal franchise starts to lose patent protection.

However Invega has not got off to the best start in the USA and analysts believe that J&J is still having trouble making a convincing case for the drug and whether taking it offers more benefits over Risperdal.