The Routine Use of Atypical Antipsychotic Agents: Maintenance Treatment

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Placebo-controlled maintenance studies of conventional antipsychotic agents demonstrate a significant reduction in the risk of schizophrenic relapse in neuroleptic-treated patients. Neuroleptic discontinuation even in patients who remained in remission for as long as 5 years results in a relapse rate comparable to that seen for patients initially assigned to placebo. Yet, patients maintained on conventional neuroleptics are exposed to the risk of tardive dyskinesia (approximately 5% per year for patients with up to 10 years of neuroleptic exposure). Attempts have been made to reduce neuroleptic exposure. A lower maintenance dose was associated with higher relapse rates, as was intermittent, targeted therapy. Psychoeducational treatment studies reaffirmed that the major influence on the rate of rehospitalization was the dose of conventional maintenance medication. Although data are scarce for maintenance treatment with atypical antipsychotic drugs, findings suggest that atypical agents are at least as efficacious and may be better tolerated. Olanzapine has demonstrated efficacy in maintenance treatment as well as a reduced risk of tardive dyskinesia compared with haloperidol.

J Clin Psychiatry 1998;59(suppl 19):18–22