Experimental Drug For Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Showing Promising Results

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There is new hope for people with obsessive compulsive disorder. A new drug is being tested in the Philadelphia region to treat the mental illness that can be disruptive and impacts an estimated 2% of the population — or one in 50 people.

Treatments that are currently available do not work well for many and often have side effects. That could be changing.

Every time Ted Nicholas, who lives in Perkasie, passes the door, he has to check that it’s locked.

“It’s an irrational thought I know that I’ve locked the door,” he said, “but I just continue to check it anyway.”

He does the same thing with washing his hands.

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“For no reason I feel dirty. I have to wash really thoroughly, not just like a one-and-done wash your hands. I have to do it three times,” Nicholas said. “It seems ridiculous, but I can’t stop.”

Nicholas has OCD and he gets fixated on something like locking the door and then compulsively checks it.

“My wife says, ‘You know what you’re doing, just stop.’ I would if I could, I really would but I can’t,” he said.

Traditional medications for OCD target brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, but they’ve been only marginally helpful.

“So a good percent of the patients do not get relief with the current medication,” Dr. Shivkumar Hatti said.

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Hatti, a psychiatrist in Media, is a principal investigator for an experimental OCD medication made by Biohaven Pharmaceuticals.

The medicine targets a different brain chemical called glutamate.

“The drug works on the symptoms of anxiety. If the anxiety comes down, compulsion to perform an activity will also come down,” Hatti said.

Limited early results have been positive.

“It would dramatically change my life,” Nicholas said.

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Nicholas is thinking about enrolling in the trial to test the drug, hoping for a more effective treatment for the disorder that interferes with his life every day.

The pharmaceutical company is looking to enroll 226 people at 59 test centers around the country.

The drug is tested for a period of three months, but it can be extended if it’s determined to be helpful.

Anyone who would like more information about the trial can do so by visiting ocdtrial.org.