Patient Outcomes Within Schizophrenia Treatment: A Look at the Role of Long-Acting Injectable Antipsychotics


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Compliance is a critical issue across all chronic conditions, including schizophrenia. Compliance is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon, with a continuum from taking all medications as prescribed to partial compliance to complete noncompliance. Partial compliance is a serious problem that may result in abrupt dose changes leading to unanticipated adverse effects and can demoralize the patient. Further, there is a nearly 5-fold increase in the risk of relapse in first-episode patients when antipsychotic drug treatment is discontinued. Taken together, these data indicate that it is critical to ensure continuous delivery of antipsychotic treatment. Atypical antipsychotic medications were expected to result in better adherence, primarily because of the anticipated improved efficacy and safety profile. However, atypical agents have poor adherence, irrespective of the type of atypical medication, making it difficult to predict which patients are taking their oral medications. Long-acting injectable (LAI) agents may minimize the fluctuations in peak and overall plasma levels compared with oral agents, indicating they may allow more consistent and predictable administration. Based on clinical experience in my practice, several important observations regarding LAI use in patients with schizophrenia have been identified. First, there are potential advantages to using LAIs, including assistance in understanding reasons for poor response, the possibility of eliminating daily pill ingestion, and the elimination of the abrupt loss of medication coverage. There are also several potential obstacles to the use of LAIs, including a lack of infrastructure for the delivery and disposal of syringes and the ease of use with the oral agents. Several strategies can be used to increase patient willingness to initiate and continue LAI therapy. Strategies to improve acceptance involve presenting the option with enthusiasm, ensuring proper goal setting, educating the patient that this treatment is not equivalent to emergency injections, and repeatedly recommending LAI therapy. Adherence can be improved by ensuring samples are available in the clinical setting at all times.

J Clin Psychiatry 2014;75(suppl 2):30–33