Abilify: Relief for Tourette’s Syndrome?

A nationwide study will determine if Abilify (aripiprazole) has the potential to relieve the involuntary muscle movements, or tics, commonly associated with Tourette’s syndrome. Children aged 7 to 17 years old will be recruited for the study, with completion set for August 2013. To be eligible, participants must have a diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome and tics severe enough to disrupt daily activities. Exclusion criteria include pregnancy, obsessive-compulsive disorder, mood disorder, suicidal thoughts, or another diagnosed mood disorder. As with most clinical trials, researchers have designed the criteria to isolate the condition (Tourette’s) and the intervention (Abilify) to the fullest extent possible.

Participants will be placed into one of four treatment groups. In group one, participants will receive a placebo pill that is indistinguishable from Abilify. Groups two through four will each receive various dosages of the study drug. Doses will be administered once weekly for a period of eight weeks. The Yale Global Tic Severity Scale will be employed at the beginning and end of the study to quantify any symptomatic changes. Study authors believe that both the study drug and experimental procedures represent little or no safety risk to participants. However, parents or guardians must provide informed consent before enrollment.

According to the National Library of Medicine, Abilify belongs to a class of medications known as atypical antipsychotics. Originally, these medications were developed as replacements for the first generation of antipsychotic drugs. Although schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders were the impetus behind the creation of these drugs, research in the last twenty years has revealed that Abilify, and drugs like it, can have beneficial effects on a number of mental health conditions. Abilify works by altering the level of certain chemicals in the brain, and doctors know that Tourette’s syndrome results from an imbalance of brain chemicals. These chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, are responsible for the regulation of mood and movement, among other things. It is believed that Abilify may restore some degree of balance for those experiencing disruptive tics because of Tourette’s syndrome.

Abilify continues to show promise as a multipurpose psychotropic medication. So far, it’s been used to treat bipolar disorder, severe depression, and aggression in autistic children. In cases of severe depression, Abilify is often combined with a standard antidepressant medication. Tourette’s syndrome only affects a small percentage of individuals, but those with severe symptoms often have trouble navigating in daily life. It is hoped that Abilify, combined with various modes of therapy, will improve their experience.


  1. Aripiprazole – PubMed Health. (n.d.). National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved June 22, 2012, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000221/
  2. Efficacy & Safety Study of Once-weekly Oral Aripiprazole in Children and Adolescents With Tourette’s Disorder. (n.d.). ClinicalTrials.gov. Retrieved June 22, 2012, from http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01418352?intr=%22Aripiprazole%22&rank=8
  3. Gilles de la Tourette syndrome – PubMed Health. (n.d.). National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved June 22, 2012, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001744/

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