What does Asenapine (Saphris) do?

Asenapine, sold under the brand name Saphris, is an atypical antipsychotic medication used primarily to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Asenapine works by affecting the activity of certain neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine and serotonin, in the brain. These neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that play essential roles in regulating mood, cognition, and behavior. Imbalances in dopamine and serotonin levels are believed to be involved in the development of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

As an atypical antipsychotic, asenapine has a complex mechanism of action. It acts as an antagonist at multiple receptor types, including dopamine (D2) receptors, serotonin (5-HT2A, 5-HT2C, 5-HT6, and 5-HT7) receptors, and adrenergic (α1 and α2) receptors. By blocking these receptors, asenapine helps to normalize the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, reducing the symptoms of schizophrenia and stabilizing mood in bipolar disorder.

Asenapine is unique among antipsychotics due to its sublingual (under the tongue) administration. The sublingual tablet dissolves quickly and allows the drug to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the gastrointestinal tract and first-pass metabolism in the liver. This route of administration may help improve the drug’s bioavailability and reduce some side effects associated with other oral antipsychotics.

In summary, asenapine (Saphris) is an atypical antipsychotic that works by modulating the activity of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. It is used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, helping to alleviate symptoms and stabilize mood.

There are various forms of drugs available, such as tablets or liquids, and each may have a separate patient information leaflet (PIL) for different doses. It is important to refer to the PIL for the specific form and dose of the drug that you have been prescribed.

You can search for further information and PILs on websites such as:

  • The British National Formulary (BNF)
  • Electronic medicines compendium (emc)
  • The National Library of Medicine's DailyMed
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 
  • Different drug forms like tablets or liquids have specific patient information leaflets (PIL) for various doses. Refer to the PIL for your prescribed drug form and dose.

    Search for PILs on websites like:


    • ANSM (Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé): ansm.sante.fr


    • AEMPS (Agencia Española de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios): aemps.gob.es


    • BfArM (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte): bfarm.de


    For questions about your medication:

    • Consult your doctor, a healthcare professional, or a pharmacist


    • Contact SOS Médecins: 3624
    • For mental health support, contact SOS Suicide: 01 45 39 40 00

    Belgium (French)

    Switzerland (French)

    • La Main Tendue: 143
    • Website: 143.ch

    Canada (French)

    • Centre de prévention du suicide du Québec: 1 866 APPELLE (1 866 277-3553)
    • Website: cpsquebec.ca


    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact Teléfono de la Esperanza: 717 003 717


    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact Telefonseelsorge: 0800 111 0 111 or 0800 111 0 222


    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact Telefono Amico: 199 284 284


    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact 113 Zelfmoordpreventie: 0800 0113


    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact Sos Voz Amiga: 21 354 45 45, 91 280 26 69, or 96 352 46 60

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