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J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2011 Jun;31(3):369-74. doi: 10.1097/JCP.0b013e3182189878.

Sarcosine therapy for obsessive compulsive disorder: a prospective, open-label study.

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Department of Psychiatry, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taipei, Taiwan.



Several lines of evidence implicate glutamatergic neurotransmission in the pathophysiology of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Sarcosine is an endogenous antagonist of glycine transporter-1. By blocking glycine uptake, sarcosine may increase the availability of synaptic glycine and enhance N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) subtype glutamatergic neurotransmission. In this 10-week open-label trial, we examined the potential benefit of sarcosine treatment in OCD patients.


Twenty-six outpatients with OCD and baseline Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (YBOCS) scores higher than 16 were enrolled. Drug-naive subjects (group 1, n = 8) and those who had discontinued serotonin reuptake inhibitors for at least 8 weeks at study entry (group 2, n = 6) received sarcosine monotherapy. The other subjects (group 3, n = 12) received sarcosine as adjunctive treatment. A flexible dosage schedule of sarcosine 500 to 2000 mg/d was applied. The primary outcome measures were Y-BOCS and Hamilton Anxiety Inventory, rated at weeks 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. Results were analyzed by repeated-measures analysis of variance.


Data of 25 subjects were eligible for analysis. The mean ± SD Y-BOCS scores decreased from 27.6 ± 5.8 to 22.7 ± 8.7, indicating a mean decrease of 19.8% ± 21.7% (P = 0.0035). Eight (32%) subjects were regarded as responders with greater than 35% reduction of Y-BOCS scores. Five of the responders achieved the good response early by week 4. Although not statistically significant, drug-naive (group 1) subjects had more profound and sustained improvement and more responders than the subjects who had received treatment before (groups 2 and 3). Sarcosine was tolerated well; only one subject withdrew owing to transient headache.


Sarcosine treatment can achieve a fast therapeutic effect in some OCD patients, particularly those who are treatment naive. The study supports the glycine transporter-1 as a novel target for developing new OCD treatment. Large-series placebo-controlled, double-blind studies are recommended.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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