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Fluvoxamine Reduces the Clozapine Dosage Needed in Refractory Schizophrenic Patients

J Clin Psychiatry 2000;61(8):594-599

Background: Concomitant fluvoxamine use can potentially reduce the dosage of clozapine needed in treatment-refractory patients with schizophrenia. Previous reports have shown that fluvoxamine can increase plasma clozapine concentrations by inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) 1A2. We evaluated the safety and efficacy of fluvoxamine, 50 mg/day, coadministration with clozapine, 100 mg/day, in refractory schizophrenic patients.

Method: In this prospective study, 18 treatment-refractory patients with DSM-IV schizophrenia (10 nonsmokers and 8 smokers) were treated with clozapine at a target dose of 100 mg h.s. After steady-state conditions of clozapine had been reached, 50 mg/day of fluvoxamine was then added. Plasma levels of clozapine, norclozapine, and clozapine N-oxide were measured prior to fluvoxamine addition and on days 14 and 28 during combined treatment. Side effects and efficacy were monitored with standardized rating instruments.

Results: After 14 days of combined treatment, the mean ± SD plasma clozapine level increased 2.3-fold to 432.4 ± 190.9 ng/mL without further elevation on day 28. All patients completed the study without significant adverse side effects. Twelve of the 18 patients achieved plasma clozapine concentrations of at least 350 ng/mL. While plasma norclozapine levels also rose (but to a smaller extent), plasma clozapine N-oxide levels remained unchanged after the add-on therapy. Patients who smoked had 34% lower plasma clozapine concentrations than nonsmokers (NS). Three of the 4 patients who did not reach clozapine plasma levels of at least 300 ng/mL were smokers. Plasma norclozapine/clozapine ratios, especially in smokers, declined significantly with fluvoxamine addition.

Conclusion: The addition of fluvoxamine, 50 mg/day, to low-dose clozapine, 100 mg/day, can raise plasma clozapine levels to at least 300 ng/mL in most patients. Only slight dosage adjustments with clozapine may be needed after fluvoxamine coadministration in some patients who smoke. Plasma clozapine levels remained stable after 14 days of fluvoxamine addition. The combined treatment was well tolerated, and clinical improvement was observed in our patients. Further long-term studies with this drug combination are needed to determine its economic impact.