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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government has approved another option to help schizophrenia patients battle their disease.

Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka America Pharmaceutical will sell the drug under the brand name Abilify. Known chemically as aripiprazole, it is one of a subset of schizophrenia medications known as atypical antipsychotics.

Schizophrenia is a disabling mental illness that afflicts more than 2 million Americans, characterized by hallucinations, withdrawal and sometimes paranoia. Sufferers undergo periods of relapse and remission. Staying on medication is crucial, but many older schizophrenia drugs caused serious side effects. Patients have looked forward to a variety of the newer ``atypical antipsychotics'' that cause fewer major problems.

Abilify offers those patients another option, but it has not yet proved better than similar competitors, said FDA drug chief Dr. Robert Temple.

Bristol-Myers said Abilify will begin sales within two weeks, but would not release a price.


On the Net:

Bristol-Myers Squibb: http://www.bms.com/

Otsuka America Pharmaceutical: http://www.otsuka.com/OAPI/