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Study highlights King's world-class contribution to understanding of clozapine

A new review of research into clozapine – one of the most important drug treatments for schizophrenia – shows that researchers from King’s College London have contributed more to the understanding of the drug than almost any other institution in the world.

The study, which is a comprehensive analysis of clozapine research in the past few decades, shows that only the US Veterans Health Administration – a national healthcare system with over 8 million patients – has published more scientific papers about the drug. King’s was the only European academic organisation in the top ten institutions contributing to clozapine research.

Originally widely used to treat schizophrenia, the discovery in the 1970s that clozapine is associated with rare but potentially serious side-effects causing bone marrow problems, means that it is now generally used to treat schizophrenia which has not responded to other treatments. Provided patients’ blood is carefully monitored, side-effects can be minimised, and the use of clozapine is associated with lower death rates and other benefits in patients with treatment-resistant schizophrenia.

The study by Francisco López-Muñoz and colleagues, is titled 'Quo vadis Clozapine? A Bibliometric Study of 45 Years of Research in International Context', and is published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

The review's authors argue that although clozapine research has plateaued in recent years, largely due to the rise of newer drugs, there is still a substantial amount of research interest in the treatment, evidenced by the high number of high-quality publications in the area. After clinical use of clozapine declined following temporary withdrawal of the drug from national health systems following the discovery of side-effects, López-Muñoz and colleagues say that their work shows that research in the area is still highly productive, and is likely to grow in future, as the clinical use of clozapine increases again.

Most of King’s research into clozapine is conducted as part of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience’s Department of Psychosis Studies, one of the world’s largest groups conducting research on psychosis. The NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) supports some of this work through its Clinical Disorders and Experimental Medicine clusters, and the group’s success can be partly attributed to the close clinical and academic integration fostered by the BRC.