The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a approved Saphris (asenapine) for the treatment of bipolar I disorder and schizophrenia, adding to the list of the newest generation of drugs available to treat these serious psychiatric conditions.

Saphris is from a category of drugs known as atypical antipsychotics. Other drugs in this class include Seroquel (quetiapine), Geodon (ziprasidone) and Abilify (aripiprazole).

“Mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can be devastating to patients and families, requiring lifelong treatment and therapy,” said Thomas Laughren, MD, director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Effective medicines can help people with mental illness live more independent lives.”

Bipolar I disorder is a chronic and severe mental illness that alternates between depression and mania. Mania is often marked by euphoric feelings, increased activity, racing thoughts, impulsive behavior and decreased need for sleep. Schizophrenia’s most common symptoms include hearing voices, visual hallucinations and extreme paranoia. Both conditions can be severely debilitating.

Saphris was approved after three short-term clinical trials in schizophrenia and two in bipolar disorder. Some trials compared Saphris with a placebo, and others compared it to existing treatments. The most common side effects were an inability to sit still, decreased oral sensitivity, drowsiness and weight gain.