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Risperidone in Acutely Exacerbated Schizophrenia: Dosing Strategies and Plasma Levels

J Clin Psychiatry 2000;61(3):209-214

Background: The optimal risperidone dosing strategy for acute schizophrenia requires elucidation. Furthermore, plasma levels of risperidone and its active metabolite (9-hydroxyrisperidone) at a given dose vary greatly among different individuals. For patients who metabolize risperidone slowly, a medium dose results in excessively high plasma levels, which might be related to adverse events and perhaps poor response. We thus investigated whether dose reduction to diminish adverse reactions associated with ordinary risperidone doses could still yield efficacy for acutely exacerbated schizophrenia.

Method: Thirty-one newly hospitalized Chinese patients with acute exacerbation of schizophrenia (DSM-IV) entered this prospective, 6-week open trial. Risperidone doses were titrated to 6 mg/day (if tolerable) over 3 days, but were lowered thereafter if side effects appeared. Efficacy and side effect assessments were conducted on days 0, 4, 14, 28, and 42. Endpoint steady-state plasma levels of risperidone and 9-hydroxyrisperidone were analyzed by high performance liquid chromatography with ultraviolet detection.

Results: Thirty patients completed the trial. Of them, 17 tolerated the 6-mg target dose well, while the other 13 received lower final doses (mean ± SD = 3.6 ± 0.9 mg, p = .0001) for curtailing treatment-emergent side effects. At endpoint, 92.3% of the 13 low-dose individuals responded to treatment (20% or more reduction in the total Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale score), compared with 52.9% of the 17 high-dose subjects (p < .05). No significant between-group differences were revealed in other minor efficacy measures. Of note, endpoint plasma levels of the active moiety (risperidone plus 9-hydroxyrisperidone) were similar between the low- and high-dose groups (40.4 ± 31.1 ng/mL vs. 49.7 ± 13.4 ng/mL, NS).

Conclusion: The results of this preliminary trial suggest that up to 6 mg of risperidone is efficacious in treating patients with acute exacerbation of schizophrenia. Nearly 60% of the patients could tolerate a 6-mg dose. For the other 40%, reducing dosages to 3.6 ± 0.9 mg for relieving side effects still yielded efficacy. The 2 dose groups were comparable in the endpoint steady-state plasma drug concentrations.