Summary: Old Antibiotic Gets New Life in Modern Medicine
For a half-century, D-cycloserine has led a quiet, workmanlike existence as an antibiotic, primarily for
tuberculosis in developing countries. Its patent has long since expired, and its popularity has waned as
newer antibiotics have appeared.
But D-cycloserine might now get a second act: A growing number of researchers say the drug could
transform the way doctors treat a range of psychiatric ailments, including anxiety, phobia and obsessive-
compulsive disorder. It could also help alleviate addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and
The drug has become a hot topic in anxiety research, with about 30 studies now under way. And a biotech
company is seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration to use D-cycloserine for anxiety
"It's a very exciting treatment, and it holds great promise," says Michael Otto, director of the Center for
Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University. "It gives us a whole new direction to go in."
Otto, who has studied the drug's effect on panic and obsessive-compulsive disorders (it worked on both),
says the field needs new approaches. More than 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders,
according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. Only a third get treatment, and only half of those
are satisfied with the results.
The drug could offer significant improvements over current anti-anxiety medicines, which must be taken
for months or years. D-cycloserine, by contrast, requires just a few doses.
The drug was introduced in 1955. Now made by Eli Lilly, it's used mostly in the developing world -- in part