A study has discovered, Raloxifene - a synthetic estrogen currently used to treat osteoporosis - has positive effects on postmenopausal women affected with schizophrenia, whereby more rapid recovery from psychotic and other symptoms seen in the test group compared to control groups.

Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, research project leader and Director of the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre (MAPrc) said women who were given 120mg per day of the unique selective estrogen receptor modulator had a significantly higher improvement in psychosis symptoms compared with those on placebos and lower doses.

The results were very promising. Under daily treatment with this 'brain estrogen', the women in the study had improvement in their key psychosis symptoms and also experienced enhanced memory and higher learning capacity, said Prof Kulkarni.

Many patients in this study had longstanding, persistent schizophrenia, so we are delighted that they experienced improvements in their mental well-being.

We will continue to investigate the efficacy of Raloxifene which is a currently available treatment for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.

She said unlike estradiol, the standard estrogen found in the oral contraceptive pill or hormone replacement treatment, Raloxifene did not have the side effects on breast, uterus and ovarian tissue.

While the findings are still at the preliminary stage, given the relatively small sample size, the research team is cautiously optimistic that ongoing trials will soon confirm the positive therapeutic potential of the drug for postmenopausal women and potentially for others.

Our results indicate that this therapy really could revolutionize treatment options for women with schizophrenia.

While at this stage we are still investigating its use in postmenopausal women, we are planning further research using hormone treatments in younger women and men suffering form psychotic illnesses.

The findings of the study are published in Psychoneuroendocrinology.