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Low-Dose Clozapine in Acute and Continuation Treatment of Severe Borderline Personality Disorder

J Clin Psychiatry 1998;59(3):103-107

Background: Psychotic-like symptoms in patients affected by borderline personality disorder (BPD) are usually treated with low-dose neuroleptics, which show controversial acute effects and lead to a worsening of affective-related symptoms and to severe neurologic side effects after prolonged administration. Clozapine lacks the neurologic side effects of traditional neuroleptics and has been shown to successfully treat psychotic-like symptoms in BPD patients at medium dose. We performed an open-label trial of low-dose clozapine in severe BPD patients.

Method: Twelve BPD inpatients (DSM-IV criteria) with severe psychotic-like symptoms were studied. Exclusion criteria included comorbid Axis I and medical pathologies. All patients had followed a therapeutic program without improvement for at least 4 months before admission. The clozapine dose was titrated upward on an individual basis until the complete disappearance of psychotic-like symptoms was achieved. Clinician-rated scales were completed at the beginning of the study and after 4 and 16 weeks.

Results: All patients completed the 16-week study. Individual clozapine doses ranged from 25 to 100 mg/day. Psychotic-like symptoms decreased within the first 3 weeks of treatment, as confirmed by a statistically significant decrease in Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale scores. This amelioration was coupled with an overall improvement, including a reduction in impulsive behaviors and in affective-related symptoms (Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression) and an increase in global functioning (Global Assessment of Functioning).

Conclusion: Low-dose clozapine for acute and continuation treatment led to improvement in overall symptomatology in a small sample of severe BPD patients.