NPS reviews new medicines for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), schizophrenia and bipolar I disorder

2 December 2011

NPS has published independent reviews of new medicines for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bipolar I disorder and schizophrenia in the latest edition of Medicine Update. These reviews outline what the medicines are used for, who they are suitable for, how they work, potential side effects to consider and how they compare with existing treatments.

From 1 December a new medicine to treat bipolar I disorder and schizophrenia will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The medicine asenapine (brand name Saphris) is a wafer that is dissolved under the tongue. An independent review of available evidence found that asenapine appears to be about as effective as other antipsychotics, but as with most new medicines, less is known about the long term effects than for more established medicines.

NPS clinical adviser Dr Danielle Stowasser says that while asenapine provides another treatment option, it is often hard to predict how well any antipsychotic medicine will work for a particular person.

“Regular check-ups to monitor effectiveness as well as adverse effects such as weight gain are important for people taking any antipsychotic medicines,” says Dr Stowasser.

Also reviewed in Medicine Update is the newly PBS-listed once-daily inhaler for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — indacaterol (brand name Onbrez).

Dr Stowasser recommends for anyone considering these new medicines to read Medicine Update which is freely available online before having a discussion with their doctor or pharmacist.

“With most new medicines the long term benefits and potential side effects are not fully known,” says Dr Stowasser.

“Before starting any new medicine, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how it works, potential side effects and whether it is the best medicine for you. Educate yourself about your medicine options so you can have a well-informed discussion with your health professional and be an active partner in your own health care.”

To read the full reviews, go to

For more information about these medicines, call Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424).

To report and discuss side effects that might be related to your medicine, call the Adverse Medicine Events (AME) Line on 1300 134 237.

To learn more about your medicines and what you need to know to determine whether they are right for you visit medicinewise choices.

Information about the new medicines

  • Indacaterol (Onbrez) is a once-daily long acting bronchodilator used to treat the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), using an inhaler device called a Breezhaler. It helps reduce shortness of breath and coughing. Indacaterol is not suitable to treat people with asthma or mixed airways disease
  • Asenapine (Saphris) is an antipsychotic medicine used to treat the ‘high’ or manic episodes associated with bipolar I disorder and to reduce psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia. Asenapine is a wafer that is placed under the tongue until it dissolves. It must be taken correctly and will not work properly if it is swallowed or chewed, or if you eat or drink within ten minutes of taking the medicine. In clinical trials some people experienced weight gain, but not as much as with other antipsychotics. The wafer form may be helpful for people who have trouble swallowing tablets or liquids.



Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests.We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.