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BMJ. 1990 October 13; 301(6756): 837–842.
PMCID: PMC1663999

Trial of brief intermittent neuroleptic prophylaxis for selected schizophrenic outpatients: clinical and social outcome at two years.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE--To evaluate a novel approach to the prophylaxis of schizophrenic relapse characterised by administration of brief courses of neuroleptic for the earliest non-psychotic signs of relapse (prodromal symptoms). DESIGN--Two year follow up of subjects randomised, double blind, to receive either active (control group) or placebo (intermittent group) depot neuroleptic medication. Both groups received brief courses of oral neuroleptic when prodromal symptoms or relapse occurred. SETTING--Psychiatric outpatient department, Charing Cross Hospital, London. SUBJECTS--54 Stable patients in remission who met the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-III criteria for schizophrenia on the basis of case notes. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Survival without relapse, survival without hospitalisation, point prevalence of extrapyramidal side effects and tardive dyskinesia, structured assessment of social functioning (social adjustment scale II), and frequency of prodromal symptoms. RESULTS--Of 19 relapses recorded over two years, 10 (53%) were preceded by non-psychotic prodromal signs. Survival rates for both relapse and hospitalisation were worse with intermittent treatment than continuous treatment over the two year follow up: 92% of controls and only 54% of patients given intermittent treatment survived the two year period without hospitalisation. Prolonged or frequent relapses as well as episodes of prodromal symptoms were more frequent with intermittent treatment. Lower scores for extrapyramidal side effects were recorded in the intermittent treatment group, but periodic assessments of social functioning failed to show any social advantages from this. CONCLUSION--The findings are at variance with a previous report of one year follow up in this cohort and attest to the superiority of continuous depot neuroleptic prophylaxis in preventing both psychotic and neurotic or dysphoric morbidity in schizophrenia.

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