Deakin University
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ENACT: a protocol for a randomised placebo-controlled trial investigating the efficacy and mechanisms of action of adjunctive N-acetylcysteine for first-episode psychosis

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posted on 2019-01-01, 00:00 authored by S M Cotton, Michael BerkMichael Berk, A Watson, S Wood, K Allott, C F Bartholomeusz, Chiara BortolasciChiara Bortolasci, Ken WalderKen Walder, B O'Donoghue, Olivia DeanOlivia Dean, A Chanen, G P Amminger, P D McGorry, A Burnside, J Uren, A Ratheesh, Seetal DoddSeetal Dodd
Background: First-episode psychosis (FEP) may lead to a progressive, potentially disabling and lifelong chronic illness; however, evidence suggests that the illness course can be improved if appropriate treatments are given at the early stages. Nonetheless, the efficacy of antipsychotic medications is suboptimal, particularly for negative and cognitive symptoms, and more efficacious and benign treatments are needed. Previous studies have shown that the antioxidant amino acid N-acetylcysteine (NAC) reduces negative symptoms and improves functioning in chronic schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Research is scarce as to whether NAC is beneficial earlier in the course of illness. The primary aim of this study is to determine the efficacy of treatment with adjunctive NAC (2 g/day for 26 weeks) compared with placebo to improve psychiatric symptoms in young people experiencing FEP. Secondary aims are to explore the neurobiological mechanisms underpinning NAC and how they relate to various clinical and functional outcomes at 26- and 52-week follow-ups. Methods/design: ENACT is a 26-week, randomised controlled trial of adjunctive NAC versus placebo, with a 26-week non-treatment follow-up period, for FEP. We will be recruiting 162 young people aged 15-25 years who have recently presented to, and are being treated at, the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre, Melbourne, Australia. The primary outcome is the Total Score on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale which will be administered at baseline, and weeks 4, 8, 12, 26 (primary endpoint), and 52 (end of study). Secondary outcomes include: symptomatology, functioning, quality of life, neurocognition, blood-derived measures of: inflammation, oxidative and nitrosative stress, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy measures of glutathione concentration. Discussion: Targeted drug development for FEP to date has generally not involved the exploration of neuroprotective agents. This study has the potential to offer a new, safe, and efficacious treatment for people with FEP, leading to better treatment outcomes. Additionally, the neuroprotective dimension of this study may lead to a better long-term prognosis for people with FEP. It has the potential to uncover a novel treatment that targets the neurobiological mechanisms of FEP and, if successful, will be a major advance for psychiatry.








Article number



1 - 14


BioMed Central


London, Eng.





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal