Targeted Treatment of Schizophrenia Symptoms as They Manifest, or Continuous Treatment to Reduce the Risk of Psychosis Recurrence

Michael Davidson*, William T. Carpenter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Current pharmacological treatment of schizophrenia employs drugs that interfere with dopamine neurotransmission, aiming to suppress acute exacerbation of psychosis and maintenance treatment to reduce the risk of psychosis recurrence. According to this treatment scheme, available psychotropic drugs intended to treat negative symptoms, cognitive impairment, or anxiety are administered as add-ons to treatment with antipsychotics. However, an alternative treatment scheme proposes a targeted or intermittent treatment approach, by which antipsychotic drugs are administered upon psychosis exacerbation and discontinued upon remission or stabilization, while negative symptoms, cognitive impairment, or anxiety are treated with specific psychotropics as monotherapy. Along these lines, antipsychotics are renewed only in the event of recurrence of psychotic symptoms. This 50-year-old debate between targeted and continuous treatment schemes arises from disagreements about interpreting scientific evidence and discordant views regarding benefit/risk assessment. Among the debate's questions are: (1) what is the percentage of individuals who can maintain stability without antipsychotic maintenance treatment, and what is the percentage of those who exacerbate despite antipsychotic treatment? (2) how to interpret results of placebo-controlled 9-to 18-month-long maintenance trials in a life-long chronic disorder, and how to interpret results of the targeted trials, some of which are open label or not randomized; (3) how to weigh the decreased risk for psychotic recurrence vs the almost certainty of adverse effects on patient's quality of life. Patients' profiles, preferences, and circumstances of the care provision should be considered as the targeted vs continuous treatment options are considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-21
Number of pages8
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Volume50
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • adverse effects
  • antipsychotics
  • continuous
  • discontinuation
  • psychosis
  • symptoms
  • targeted
  • treatment

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