Gamma-aminobutyric acid agonists for neuroleptic-induced tardive dyskinesia

Having to take antipsychotic drugs for long periods of time can cause repetitive movements - often of the face and mouth. These are disfiguring and do not necessarily cease once medication is reduced or changed. Gamma-aminobutyric acid agonists have been evaluated for treating these movement disorders, but, so far, the benefit of this medication seems small and restricted to avoidance of deterioration.

Authors' conclusions: 

Evidence of the effects of baclofen, progabide, sodium valproate, or THIP for people with antipsychotic-induced TD is inconclusive and unconvincing. Any possible benefits are likely to be outweighed by the adverse effects associated with their use.

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Chronic antipsychotic drug treatment may cause tardive dyskinesia (TD), a long-term movement disorder. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) agonist drugs, which have intense sedative properties and may exacerbate psychotic symptoms, have been used to treat TD.


To determine the clinical effects of GABA agonist drugs (baclofen, gamma-vinyl-GABA, gamma-acetylenic-GABA, progabide, muscimol, sodium valproate and tetrahydroisoxazolopyridine (THIP) for people with schizophrenia or other chronic mental illnesses who also developed neuroleptic-induced tardive dyskinesia.

Search strategy: 

We updated the previous Cochrane review by searching the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group Register (June 2010).

Selection criteria: 

We included reports if they were controlled trials dealing with people with neuroleptic-induced TD and schizophrenia or other chronic mental illness who had been randomly allocated to either non-benzodiazepine GABA agonist drugs with placebo or no intervention.

Data collection and analysis: 

Working independently, we selected and critically appraised studies, extracted data and analysed on an intention-to-treat basis. Where possible and appropriate we calculated risk ratios (RR) and their 95% confidence intervals (CI) with the number needed to treat (NNT). For continuous data we calculated mean differences (MD).

Main results: 

We identified eight small poorly reported studies for inclusion. For the outcome of 'no clinically important improvement in tardive dyskinesia' GABA agonist drugs were not clearly better than placebo (n = 108, 3 RCTs, RR 0.83 CI 0.6 to 1.1). Deterioration in mental state was more likely to occur in people receiving GABA medication (n = 95, 4 RCTs, RR 2.47 CI 1.1 to 5.4), but this effect was influenced by the decision to assign a negative outcome to those who left early before the end of the study. A greater proportion of people allocated GABA medication may fail to complete the trial compared with those allocated placebo (20% versus 9%), but this difference was not statistically significant (n = 136, 5 RCTs, RR 1.99 CI 0.8 to 4.7). There is a suggestion of an increase in ataxia (loss of power of muscular coordination) for both baclofen and sodium valproate (n = 95, 2 RCTs, RR 3.26 CI 0.4 to 30.2), and in sedation (n = 113, 3 RCTs, RR 2.12 CI 0.8 to 5.4) compared with placebo, but this was not significant. Withdrawal of tetrahydroisoxazolopyridine (THIP) may cause seizures.