The debate regarding maintenance treatment with antipsychotic drugs in schizophrenia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Several large meta-analyses of maintenance trials have confirmed that patients who suffer from chronic schizophrenia, randomized to placebo, are likely to experience earlier symptomatic worsening than patients randomized to a dopamine (DA)-blocking drug. These findings led expert groups to issue treatment guidelines, which recommend treatment with DA-blocking drugs for periods ranging from several years to indefinitely. The recommendations were accepted by the majority of, but not all, the experts, some of whom proposed a targeted or intermittent therapy approach by which DA-blocking drugs are discontinued upon symptomatic remission, to be renewed in case of symptom re-emergence. The debate between continued and targeted treatment approaches arises from disagreements regarding scientific and ethical questions. Scientifically, the discussion focuses on the quality and interpretation of the supporting or detracting evidence regarding each treatment option. For example, what is the percentage of individuals who can maintain stability off drugs? What is the rate of individuals who exacerbate despite maintenance treatment? What is the percentage of individuals who experience drug-related adverse effects? How can we interpret results of open-label, nonrandomized targeted trials? Regarding ethical questions, the debating sides disagree on how to weigh the impact of the decreased risk for exacerbation versus the certainty of adverse effects on the patient's quality of life, and how to reach a patient-therapist shared decision within the constraints of mental illness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-221
Number of pages7
JournalDialogues in Clinical Neuroscience
Volume20
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Antipsychotics
  • Dopamine
  • Maintenance treatment
  • Schizophrenia

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