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1.  Distribution and trends in outpatient utilization of generic versus brand name psychopharmaceuticals during a ten-year period in Croatia 
Drug costs increasingly pose a burden upon the otherwise inadequate health care resources and rational drug utilization is an important segment of every national health policy. Optimal patient care should be the goal of rational pharmacotherapy, whereby the economic burden of treatment is just one of the elements to be considered on choosing appropriate therapy.
The aim of this study was to determine distribution and trends in the outpatient utilization of generic versus brand name psychopharmaceuticals and to evaluate the rationality of prescribing psychopharmaceuticals during a ten-year period.
Using the World Health Organization Anatomical-Therapeutic-Chemical classification/Defined Daily Doses (ATC/DDD) methodology, the number of DDD was calculated from data collected from pharmacies on the number and size of drug packages. The ratio of generic and brand name drug costs served as an indicator on assessing the rationality of drug utilization.
Total cost for psychopharmaceuticals increased by 20.1%, more for brand name than for generic agents (32.7% vs. 7.4%). The highest share of generic psychopharmaceuticals as compared with brand name drugs according to DDD per 1000 inhabitants per day (DDD/1000/day) was in the group of psycholeptics (83.6% in 2001 vs. 82.2% in 2010), most in hypnotics and sedatives, and least in antipsychotics. The share of generic psychopharmaceuticals in total drug utilization according to financial indicators decreased by 9.6% and according to DDD/1000/day by 12%. The greatest decrease was in antidepressants, i.e. by 33.8% according to financial indicators and by 46% according to DDD/1000/day; and in antipsychotics by 30.9% according to DDD/1000/day, while showing an increase by 8.5% according to financial indicators. In the therapeutic subgroup of mood stabilizers, the share of generic drugs in total drug utilization declined by 32% according to DDD/1000/day, but increased by 25.1% according to financial indicators.
The lack of uniform national guidelines and the still strong impact of pharmaceutical industry marketing continue favoring the rise in prescribing brand name antidepressants and antipsychotics. Depression, schizophrenia and bipolar diseases are complex diseases. As a result, specific measures are needed to encourage the prescribing of generic psychopharmaceuticals.
PMCID: PMC4261909  PMID: 25128190
Outpatient utilization; Psychopharmaceuticals; ATC/DDD methodology; Generics; Pharmacoeconomics; Croatia
2.  Anticholinergic use in children and adolescents after initiation of antipsychotic therapy 
The Annals of pharmacotherapy  2010;44(0):1171-1180.
Second generation antipsychotics (SGAs) are thought to have a lower likelihood of inducing extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS) than first generation antipsychotics (FGAs). Clinical observations suggest that younger patients may be more sensitive to SGA-associated EPS than adults and require therapy with anticholinergic agents, which are known to impair cognitive performance. The scope of anticholinergic use in this patient population and differences in utilization across SGAs (as well as FGAs) has not been extensively studied.
The primary objective of this study was to determine the proportion of patients five to 18 years of age who received anticholinergic therapy during the initial stages of antipsychotic treatment. A secondary objective was to compare anticholinergic use across patients receiving aripiprazole, risperidone, and quetiapine, SGAs previously identified to be the most commonly prescribed at the academic institution studied.
Patients five to 18 years of age initiating a trial of an antipsychotic between January 1, 2005 and September 1, 2008 were identified in a retrospective review of prescription and medical records. Demographic characteristics, antipsychotic and anticholinergic utilization, indications, diagnoses, and concomitant medications and doses were collected from the electronic medical record. For patients who received more than one therapeutic course of an antipsychotic during the identified timeframe, only the first course identified in the medical record was used for analyses. Anticholinergic utilization at antipsychotic initiation and after 30 days was assessed. Variables associated with anticholinergic use and differences across agents were identified.
A total of 235 antipsychotic treatment courses were identified. Of these, 152 patients met our inclusion criteria and represented the first documented use of an antipsychotic at the present institution. Anticholinergic use at any time during the first 30 days of treatment was identified in 32 patients (21%) while EPS was documented for 12 patients (7.8%). FGA or polypharmacy defined as simultaneous use of ≥1 scheduled antipsychotic versus SGA (OR=18.98; 95% CI:4.74 – 75.95) was the primary characteristic significantly associated with anticholinergic use 30 days after initiation. Risperidone, quetiapine, and aripiprazole were the three most commonly prescribed antipsychotics. Of these SGAs, anticholinergic use was most frequently prescribed with risperidone treatment (p=0.03).
Anticholinergic use exceeded the incidence of EPS as documented in the electronic medical record (21% vs 8%) and differed across individual medications as well as antipsychotic class. Use of an FGA or polypharmacy was a key predictor of anticholinergic use.
PMCID: PMC3789369  PMID: 20587746
Anticholinergic; Antipsychotic; Pediatric; Adolescent; Extrapyramidal symptoms
3.  Metabolic Syndrome in Patients with Severe Mental Illness Undergoing Psychiatric Rehabilitation Receiving High Dose Antipsychotic Medication 
To review evidence of chronic antipsychotic medication and the association with metabolic syndrome in mentally ill patients. This evidence was used to analyse a cohort of patients with severe mental illness and to deduce a correlation between the prevalence of metabolic syndrome and their dose regimens.
Materials and Methods:
Twenty-four male patients undergoing Psychiatric rehabilitation underwent a review of current medication and assessment of risk factors for metabolic syndrome. Assessment criteria was based upon National Cholesterol Education Programme expert panel on detection, evaluation and treatment of high blood cholesterol in adults (Adult Treatment Panel III) (NCEP ATP III) criteria, incorporating waist circumference, raised triglycerides, reduced high density lipoprotein, raised blood pressure and fasting blood glucose. PubMed, Nature and Science Direct databases have been used to compile the medical and scientific background on metabolic syndrome and antipsychotic medication and the effect on patients particularly on high dose.
Out of 24 patients, 10 patients (41.7%) were receiving high dose antipsychotics (HDA) and four were on maximum dosage limits of 100%. 8.3% (2/24) patients were receiving only one first generation antipsychotics (FGA), 37.5% (9/24) patients were receiving only one second generation antipsychotic (SGA), 45.8% patients (11/24) were receiving two or more SGA only, and only one patient was receiving two or more FGA. One patient was receiving a combination of FGA and SGA. PRN (“as needed”) therapy was not included in this study as their usage was limited. Clozapine was mostly prescribed in these patients (10/24, 41.6%). Four out of the 24 patients refused blood tests therefore were excluded from the following results. In the patients evaluated, 55% (11/20) had confirmed metabolic syndrome. In these patients with metabolic syndrome, 45.4% (5/11) were on HDA and 27.3% (3/11) were on maximum British National Formulary (BNF) limits of 100% of dosage. Four out of the nine remaining patients not diagnosed with metabolic syndrome were on HDA.
Evidence supports the association between antipsychotic medication and metabolic syndrome. The data extrapolated from this cohort of mentally ill patients demonstrates that there is an increase in risk factors for metabolic syndrome and weight gain in the majority of patients on antipsychotic medication. The data however does not support any further predisposition to metabolic syndrome in these patients taking HDA. It also cannot be assumed antipsychotic medication is independently associated with the prevalence of these abnormalities.
PMCID: PMC3573576  PMID: 23439746
Antipsychotics; metabolic syndrome; high-dose antipsychotics
4.  QTc and psychopharmacs: are there any differences between monotherapy and polytherapy 
Some psychotropic drugs are connected with prolongation of QT interval, increased risk of cardiac arrhythmias and greater incidence of sudden death, especially when used in combination. Concomitant use of antipsychotics and antidepressants is not rare in our clinical practice. The study compares the length of QT interval in patients on monotherapy with an antipsychotic or an antidepressant and patients taking polytherapy (an antipsychotic agent combined with an antidepressant).
Sixty-one hospitalized women who met the ICD-10 criteria for schizophrenia, schizoaffective psychosis, delusional disorder and mood disorder were included in the study. The monotherapy group was consisted of thirty-two women treated with an antipsychotic or an antidepressant while the polytherapy group was composed of twenty-nine women treated with an antipsychotic agent plus an antidepressant. Two electrocardiograms (ECGs) were obtained for each patient: the first was carried out before the treatment and the second after two weeks of treatment.
Statistical analysis was carried out by SPSS program and included unpaired and paired t test and Fisher's exact test.
Mean baseline QTc values did not differ between the groups (439 ± 22 ms was the same value found in the both groups; unpaired t test, p > 0.5). Mean QTc intervals after two weeks of treatment were also similar (439 ± 24 ms in the monotherapy group and 440 ± 20 ms in the polytherapy group; unpaired t test, p > 0.5). Fisher's exact test did not reveal significant difference in the number of patients with borderline (451–470 ms) or prolonged (> 470 ms) QTc between groups, neither before treatment nor after two weeks of treatment. Twenty two women of the total of sixty one patients (36%) had QTc > 450 ms before applying therapy.
We did not find significant QT prolongation in our patients after two weeks of treatment with antipsychotics and/or antidepressants. The QTc interval length did not differ significantly in the monotherapy and the polytherapy group. More than one third of included women exceeded the threshold value of borderline QTc interval (450 ms) before starting treatment. This finding calls for caution when prescribing drugs to female psychiatric patients, especially if they have other health problems.
PMCID: PMC1871590  PMID: 17477877
5.  QT interval prolongation related to psychoactive drug treatment: a comparison of monotherapy versus polytherapy 
Several antipsychotic agents are known to prolong the QT interval in a dose dependent manner. Corrected QT interval (QTc) exceeding a threshold value of 450 ms may be associated with an increased risk of life threatening arrhythmias. Antipsychotic agents are often given in combination with other psychotropic drugs, such as antidepressants, that may also contribute to QT prolongation. This observational study compares the effects observed on QT interval between antipsychotic monotherapy and psychoactive polytherapy, which included an additional antidepressant or lithium treatment.
We examined two groups of hospitalized women with Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Schizoaffective Disorder in a naturalistic setting. Group 1 was composed of nineteen hospitalized women treated with antipsychotic monotherapy (either haloperidol, olanzapine, risperidone or clozapine) and Group 2 was composed of nineteen hospitalized women treated with an antipsychotic (either haloperidol, olanzapine, risperidone or quetiapine) with an additional antidepressant (citalopram, escitalopram, sertraline, paroxetine, fluvoxamine, mirtazapine, venlafaxine or clomipramine) or lithium. An Electrocardiogram (ECG) was carried out before the beginning of the treatment for both groups and at a second time after four days of therapy at full dosage, when blood was also drawn for determination of serum levels of the antipsychotic.
Statistical analysis included repeated measures ANOVA, Fisher Exact Test and Indipendent T Test.
Mean QTc intervals significantly increased in Group 2 (24 ± 21 ms) however this was not the case in Group 1 (-1 ± 30 ms) (Repeated measures ANOVA p < 0,01). Furthermore we found a significant difference in the number of patients who exceeded the threshold of borderline QTc interval value (450 ms) between the two groups, with seven patients in Group 2 (38%) compared to one patient in Group 1 (7%) (Fisher Exact Text, p < 0,05).
No significant prolongation of the QT interval was found following monotherapy with an antipsychotic agent, while combination of these drugs with antidepressants caused a significant QT prolongation. Careful monitoring of the QT interval is suggested in patients taking a combined treatment of antipsychotic and antidepressant agents.
PMCID: PMC1088007  PMID: 15845138
antipsychotic; antidepressant; proarrhythmia; QTc interval
6.  Pharmaco-utilisation and related costs of drugs used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in Italy: the IBIS study 
BMC Psychiatry  2014;14:282.
Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (BD) are psychiatric diseases that are commonly managed with antipsychotics. Treatment pathways are highly variable and no universal treatment guidelines are available. The primary objective of the Italian Burden of Illness in Schizophrenia and BD (IBIS) study was to describe pharmaco-utilisation of antipsychotic treatments and characteristics of patients affected by schizophrenia or BD. A secondary objective was to describe costs of illness for patients with schizophrenia or BD.
IBIS was a multicentre, real-world, retrospective, observational cohort study based on data obtained from administrative databases of 16 Local Health Units in Italy (~7.5 million individuals). Patients with schizophrenia or BD ≥18 years of age treated with antipsychotics between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2009 were included in the primary analysis. Pharmaco-utilisation data were gathered over a follow-up period of 12 months.
Patients with schizophrenia and BD received a wide variety of antipsychotic medications. The proportion of patients on antipsychotic monotherapy was 68% in patients with schizophrenia and 70% in patients with BD. In patients with schizophrenia, ~1/3 of patients receiving antipsychotic monotherapy also received mood stabilisers and/or antidepressants (34.7%) compared with over half of those on antipsychotic polytherapy (52.2%). In patients with BD, use of mood stabilisers and/or antidepressants was even higher; 76.9% of patients receiving antipsychotic monotherapy also received mood stabilisers and/or antidepressants compared with 85.5% of patients on antipsychotic polytherapy. Switch therapy was more frequent in patients with BD than in patients with schizophrenia, whereas add-on therapy was more frequent in patients with schizophrenia than in patients with BD. The mean total disease-related cost per patient per annum was higher in patients with schizophrenia (€4,157) than in patients with BD (€3,301). The number and cost of hospitalisations was higher in patients with BD, whereas the number and cost of nursing home stays was higher in patients with schizophrenia.
Use of administrative databases has permitted retrieval of comprehensive information about therapeutic pathways, diagnostic history and costs in patients affected by schizophrenia or BD. A need for personalised treatment pathways has been described.
Trial registration NCT01392482; first received June 29, 2011
PMCID: PMC4203906  PMID: 25312446
Antipsychotics; Real-world practice; Cost of illness; Pharmaco-utilisation; Schizophrenia; Bipolar disorder
7.  Factors That Influence the Prescription of Antipsychotics for Patients with Schizophrenia in China 
To investigate the patterns of antipsychotic use in China and to analyze the factors that influence antipsychotic prescriptions.
A standardized survey was conducted from May 20 to 24 2002 in five different regions of China with varying economic levels. The patterns of antipsychotic medication use were analyzed in a sample of 4,779 patients with schizophrenia. The survey gathered information on demographic characteristics, clinical profiles, and antipsychotic medications prescribed. Multiple logistic regression was used to analyze factors related to patterns of antipsychotic medication use.
A plurality of patients with schizophrenia was treated with clozapine (39%); this was followed by risperidone, sulpride, chlorpromazine, perphenazine, and haloperidol. More than 56.3% of patients were treated with only one atypical antipsychotic. The mean daily dose of chlorpromazine was 365±253 mg (mean±standard deviation), and 6.5% of patients were treated with depot injections of typical antipsychotic medications. A total of 73.7% (n=3,523) of patients with schizophrenia received monotherapy, 24.8% (n=1,183) received two antipsychotics, 1.1% (n=52) received three antipsychotics, and one received four different antipsychotics. Patients often simultaneously received other classes of medications including anticholinergic agents, benzodiazepines, β-blockers, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers. Economic status and clinical symptoms were the main factors that contributed to the patterns of antipsychotic prescription.
The present study suggests that atypical antipsychotic medications, especially clozapine, are the primary psychiatric treatments of choice in the management of schizophrenia in China. Moreover, the economic status and clinical profile of the patient are the major factors affecting the prescription of antipsychotic medication.
PMCID: PMC3569114  PMID: 23429971
Schizophrenia; Antipsychotic drugs; Prescriptions; China; Survey; Clozapine
8.  Association of FKBP51 with Priming of Autophagy Pathways and Mediation of Antidepressant Treatment Response: Evidence in Cells, Mice, and Humans 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(11):e1001755.
Theo Rein and colleagues examine the role of FKBP51 in the actions of antidepressants, with a particular focus on pathways of autophagy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
FK506 binding protein 51 (FKBP51) is an Hsp90 co-chaperone and regulator of the glucocorticoid receptor, and consequently of stress physiology. Clinical studies suggest a genetic link between FKBP51 and antidepressant response in mood disorders; however, the underlying mechanisms remain elusive. The objective of this study was to elucidate the role of FKBP51 in the actions of antidepressants, with a particular focus on pathways of autophagy.
Methods and Findings
Established cell lines, primary neural cells, human blood cells of healthy individuals and patients with depression, and mice were treated with antidepressants. Mice were tested for several neuroendocrine and behavioral parameters. Protein interactions and autophagic pathway activity were mainly evaluated by co-immunoprecipitation and Western blots. We first show that the effects of acute antidepressant treatment on behavior are abolished in FKBP51 knockout (51KO) mice. Autophagic markers, such as the autophagy initiator Beclin1, were increased following acute antidepressant treatment in brains from wild-type, but not 51KO, animals. FKBP51 binds to Beclin1, changes decisive protein interactions and phosphorylation of Beclin1, and triggers autophagic pathways. Antidepressants and FKBP51 exhibited synergistic effects on these pathways. Using chronic social defeat as a depression-relevant stress model in combination with chronic paroxetine (PAR) treatment revealed that the stress response, as well as the effects of antidepressants on behavior and autophagic markers, depends on FKBP51. In human blood cells of healthy individuals, FKBP51 levels correlated with the potential of antidepressants to induce autophagic pathways.
Importantly, the clinical antidepressant response of patients with depression (n = 51) could be predicted by the antidepressant response of autophagic markers in patient-derived peripheral blood lymphocytes cultivated and treated ex vivo (Beclin1/amitriptyline: r = 0.572, p = 0.003; Beclin1/PAR: r = 0.569, p = 0.004; Beclin1/fluoxetine: r = 0.454, p = 0.026; pAkt/amitriptyline: r = −0.416, p = 0.006; pAkt/PAR: r = −0.355, p = 0.021; LC3B-II/PAR: r = 0.453, p = 0.02), as well as by the lymphocytic expression levels of FKBP51 (r = 0.631, p<0.0001), pAkt (r = −0.515, p = 0.003), and Beclin1 (r = 0.521, p = 0.002) at admission. Limitations of the study include the use of male mice only and the relatively low number of patients for protein analyses.
To our knowledge, these findings provide the first evidence for the molecular mechanism of FKBP51 in priming autophagic pathways; this process is linked to the potency of at least some antidepressants. These newly discovered functions of FKBP51 also provide novel predictive markers for treatment outcome, consistent with physiological and potential clinical relevance.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Everyone feels miserable sometimes, but about one in six people will have an episode of clinical depression during their lifetime. For people who are clinically depressed, overwhelming feelings of sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness can last for months or years. Affected individuals lose interest in activities they used to enjoy, they sometimes have physical symptoms such as disturbed sleep, and they may contemplate suicide. Clinicians diagnose depression and determine its severity using questionnaires (“depression rating scales”) that explore the patient's feelings and symptoms. Mild depression is often treated with talking therapies (psychotherapy) such as cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people change negative ways of thinking. For more severe depression, patients are also usually prescribed an antidepressant, most commonly a “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor” such as paroxetine or a tricyclic antidepressant such as amitriptyline.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, antidepressants don't work for more than half of patients. Moreover, because it is unclear how antidepressants work, it is not possible to predict which patients will respond to which antidepressants. Thus, matching patient to drug can be a lengthy, sometimes unsuccessful, process. Here, the researchers use several approaches to test the hypothesis that a protein called FK506 binding protein 51 (FKBP51) is involved in the actions of antidepressants and to investigate whether the ability of both FKBP51 and antidepressants to regulate a process called autophagy underlies the impact of FKBP51 on antidepressant responses. FKBP51 is a regulator of stress physiology, which is connected to the development and treatment of depression; genetic studies have suggested a link between FKBP51 expression and the antidepressant response rate. Some antidepressants are known to alter the initial steps in the autophagy pathway, a multistep process that maintains the integrity of cells through regulated degradation and recycling of cellular components; however, the potential synergistic role of FKBP51 and antidepressants in regulating pathways of autophagy are unknown.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first treated wild-type mice and FKBP51 knockout mice (genetically altered animals that make no FKBP51) with an acute dose of antidepressant and compared their behavior in a forced swim test, an assay that measures the action of antidepressants in mice by determining how long the mice struggle or float inertly when placed in deep water. As expected, acute antidepressant treatment increased the time that wild-type mice spent struggling. However, this effect of antidepressant treatment was greatly attenuated in the FKBP51 knockout mice. Moreover, the levels of several autophagy markers increased in the brains of wild-type mice following antidepressant treatment but not in the brains of FKBP51 knockout mice. Next, using “chronic social defeat stress” to model the “endophenotype” of depression (a combination of physiological, hormonal, and behavioral traits seen in people with depression) in mice, the researchers showed that the stress response and the effect of chronic antidepressants on behavior and on autophagic markers all depend on FKBP51. Using cell-based assays, the researchers showed that antidepressants and FKBP51 had synergistic (interactive) effects on the autophagic pathway and that, in human blood cells, FKBP51 levels correlated with the potential of antidepressants to induce autophagic pathways. Finally, the researchers report that the clinical response to antidepressant treatment in 51 patients with depression was associated with the response of autophagic markers in their peripheral blood lymphocytes to antidepressant treatment in test tubes, and that the expression levels of FKBP51 and autophagy markers in patient lymphocytes at admission were associated with subsequent clinical responses to antidepressants.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the protein FKBP51 is required for the effects of both acute and chronic treatment with some antidepressants on behavior and on autophagic pathways in mice. These findings also reveal an association between antidepressant treatment responses in patients and both the expression levels of FKBP51 and autophagy markers in lymphocytes at admission and the response of autophagic markers to antidepressant treatment in patient lymphocytes. The accuracy of these findings is limited by the small number of clinical samples available for analysis, by the use of only male mice in the animal experiments, and by the inability of animal models of depression to fully replicate the human condition. Nevertheless, these findings identify the early stages of autophagy as potential targets for the development of new antidepressants and identify several potential biomarkers that might, after further clinical validation, help clinicians predict antidepressant efficacy in patients with depression.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information on all aspects of depression (in English and Spanish), including information on antidepressants
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides detailed information about depression and about antidepressants; it also provides personal stories about depression
The UK charity Mind provides information on depression, including some personal stories about depression
More personal stories about depression are available from
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about depression
Wikipedia has a page on autophagy (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The patients included in this study were all enrolled in the Munich Antidepressant Response Signature project, which aims to identify gene variants and biomarkers that predict treatment outcomes with antidepressants
PMCID: PMC4227651  PMID: 25386878
9.  Adjunctive Atypical Antipsychotic Treatment for Major Depressive Disorder: A Meta-Analysis of Depression, Quality of Life, and Safety Outcomes 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(3):e1001403.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Glen Spielmans and colleagues find that adjunctive atypical antipsychotic medications are associated with small-to-moderate improvements in depressive symptoms in patients with depression, but there is little evidence for improvement on measures of quality of life, and these medications are linked to adverse events such as weight gain.
Atypical antipsychotic medications are widely prescribed for the adjunctive treatment of depression, yet their total risk–benefit profile is not well understood. We thus conducted a systematic review of the efficacy and safety profiles of atypical antipsychotic medications used for the adjunctive treatment of depression.
Methods and Findings
We included randomized trials comparing adjunctive antipsychotic medication to placebo for treatment-resistant depression in adults. Our literature search (conducted in December 2011 and updated on December 14, 2012) identified 14 short-term trials of aripiprazole, olanzapine/fluoxetine combination (OFC), quetiapine, and risperidone. When possible, we supplemented published literature with data from manufacturers' clinical trial registries and US Food and Drug Administration New Drug Applications. Study duration ranged from 4 to 12 wk. All four drugs had statistically significant effects on remission, as follows: aripiprazole (odds ratio [OR], 2.01; 95% CI, 1.48–2.73), OFC (OR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.01–2.0), quetiapine (OR, 1.79; 95% CI, 1.33–2.42), and risperidone (OR, 2.37; 95% CI, 1.31–4.30).
The number needed to treat (NNT) was 19 for OFC and nine for each other drug. All drugs with the exception of OFC also had statistically significant effects on response rates, as follows: aripiprazole (OR, 2.07; 95% CI, 1.58–2.72; NNT, 7), OFC (OR, 1.30, 95% CI, 0.87–1.93), quetiapine (OR, 1.53, 95% CI, 1.17–2.0; NNT, 10), and risperidone (OR, 1.83, 95% CI, 1.16–2.88; NNT, 8). All four drugs showed statistically significant effects on clinician-rated depression severity measures (Hedges' g ranged from 0.26 to 0.48; mean difference of 2.69 points on the Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale across drugs). On measures of functioning and quality of life, these medications produced either no benefit or a very small benefit, except for risperidone, which had a small-to-moderate effect on quality of life (g = 0.49).
Treatment was linked to several adverse events, including akathisia (aripiprazole), sedation (quetiapine, OFC, and aripiprazole), abnormal metabolic laboratory results (quetiapine and OFC), and weight gain (all four drugs, especially OFC). Shortcomings in study design and data reporting, as well as use of post hoc analyses, may have inflated the apparent benefits of treatment and reduced the apparent incidence of adverse events.
Atypical antipsychotic medications for the adjunctive treatment of depression are efficacious in reducing observer-rated depressive symptoms, but clinicians should interpret these findings cautiously in light of (1) the small-to-moderate-sized benefits, (2) the lack of benefit with regards to quality of life or functional impairment, and (3) the abundant evidence of potential treatment-related harm.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Everyone feels miserable occasionally. But for people who are clinically depressed, feelings of sadness and hopelessness and physical symptoms such as sleeping badly can last for months or years and can make them feel life is no longer worth living. Depression affects one in six people at some time during their life. Clinicians diagnose depression by asking their patients a series of questions about their feelings and symptoms. The answer to each question is given a score, and the total score from the questionnaire (“depression rating scale”) indicates the severity of depression. Treatment of depression often involves talking treatments (psychotherapy) such as cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people change negative ways of thinking and behaving and antidepressant drugs, most commonly “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors” such as fluoxetine and paroxetine.
Why Was This Study Done?
Atypical antipsychotic medications (for example, aripiprazole, olanzapine/fluoxetine combination [OFC], quetiapine, and risperidone) are also widely prescribed for the treatment of depression. These drugs, which were developed to treat mental illnesses that are characterized by a loss of contact with reality, are used as adjunctive therapy for depression. That is, they are used in addition to antidepressant drugs. Clinicians wrote nearly four million prescriptions for adjunctive treatment of depression with atypical antipsychotic medications in 2007–2008 in the US alone. However, it is not known whether the benefits of using these drugs to treat depression outweigh their side effects, which include weight gain, sedation, and akathisia (a feeling of inner restlessness resulting in an urge to move, which may or may not be accompanied by increased movement). Here, the researchers undertake a systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety profiles of atypical antipsychotic medications used for the adjunctive treatment of depression. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; a meta-analysis is a statistical approach that combines the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 14 short-term randomized controlled trials (duration 4–12 weeks) that compared adjunctive antipsychotic medications (aripiprazole, OFC, quetiapine, or risperidone) to placebo (dummy drug) in the treatment of depression that had not responded to antidepressant medication alone. All four drugs had statistically significant effects (effects unlikely to have happened by chance) on remission, which was most commonly defined as a score of less than eight at the study end point on the Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale. The researchers calculated the number of patients that would have to be treated for one patient to achieve remission (number needed to treat, or NNT). For OFC, the NNT was 19; for all the other drugs it was nine. All the drugs except OFC also significantly improved response rates (defined as a 50% improvement in depression rating score). However, the medications provided little or no benefit in terms of functioning and quality of life, except for risperidone, which had a small-to-moderate effect on quality of life. Finally, treatment with atypical antipsychotic medications was linked to several adverse effects, including weight gain (all four drugs) and akathisia (aripiprazole).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results suggest that atypical antipsychotic medications for the adjunctive treatment of depression are efficacious in reducing observer-rated depressive symptoms. However, clinicians should interpret this conclusion cautiously for several reasons. First, adjunctive treatment with atypical antipsychotics provided only small-to-moderate benefits. Moreover, shortcomings in study design and data reporting methods may have inflated the apparent benefits of treatment and reduced the apparent incidence of adverse events. Second, this study provides little evidence that adjunctive treatment with atypical antipsychotics improves patients' quality of life or reduces their functional impairment. Finally, this study highlights abundant evidence of potential treatment-related harm. This evaluation of the safety and efficacy of adjunctive treatments for clinical depression provides critical insights that should help clinicians better understand the risk–benefit profiles of this approach to the treatment of major depressive disorder.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information on all aspects of depression (in English and Spanish); it has a webpage on mental health medications that includes information about atypical antipsychotics
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides detailed information about depression and includes personal stories about depression
More personal stories about depression are available from
The UK charity Mind provides information on depression and on antipsychotic drugs; Mind also includes personal stories about depression on its website
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about depression (in English and Spanish)
Healthy Skepticism is an international nonprofit membership association that aims to improve health by reducing harm from misleading health information
PMCID: PMC3595214  PMID: 23554581
10.  Conformance to schizophrenia treatment guidelines in North West-Bank, Palestine: focus on antipsychotic dosing and polytherapy 
BMC Psychiatry  2013;13:179.
Analysis of the prescribing patterns of antipsychotic drugs can improve therapeutic outcomes. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the prescribing pattern of antipsychotics and its conformance to international treatment guidelines.
A cross sectional study at primary psychiatric centers was carried out. Patients’ medical files were used to obtain demographic, medication and clinical information. International guidelines for schizophrenia were used to create conformance indicators. All statistical analyses were conducted using Statistical Package for Social Sciences.
250 patients were included in this study. A total of 406 antipsychotic agents were used; 348 (85.7%) were first generation antipsychotics (FGA). The prevalence of antipsychotic combination was 50.4% (n=126). There was no significant difference in positive (p=0.3), negative (p=0.06) and psychopathology (p=0.5) scores of schizophrenia symptoms among patients on monotherapy versus those on antipsychotic combination. Furthermore, no significant difference was observed in the annual cost of antipsychotic monotherapy versus combination therapy. One hundred and five patients (42%) were using optimum dose of (300 – 600 mg CPZeq) while the remaining were using sub or supra therapeutic doses. Analysis showed that use of depot, use of anticholinergic agents and increasing amount of total CPZeq were significant factors associated with antipsychotic combination.
This study indicated that antipsychotic prescribing was not in conformance with international guidelines with respect to maintenance dose and combination therapy. Type of antipsychotic treatment regimen, combination versus monotherapy, was not associated with better clinical or economic outcome.
PMCID: PMC3700822  PMID: 23816223
Antipsychotics; Prescribing pattern; Palestine
11.  Co-Occurring Depressive Symptoms in the Older Patient with Schizophrenia 
Drugs & aging  2008;25(8):631-647.
Clinicians treating older patients with schizophrenia are often challenged by patients presenting with both depressive and psychotic features. The presence of co-morbid depression impacts negatively on quality of life, functioning, overall psychopathology and the severity of co-morbid medical conditions. Depressive symptoms in patients with schizophrenia include major depressive episodes (MDEs) that do not meet criteria for schizoaffective disorder, MDEs that occur in the context of schizoaffective disorder and subthreshold depressive symptoms that do not meet criteria for MDE. Pharmacological treatment of patients with schizophrenia and depression involves augmenting antipsychotic medications with antidepressants. Recent surveys suggest that clinicians prescribe antidepressants to 30% of inpatients and 43% of outpatients with schizophrenia and depression at all ages. Recent trials addressing the efficacy of this practice have evaluated selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine, sertraline, fluvoxamine and citalopram. These trials have included only a small number of subjects and few older subjects participated; furthermore, the efficacy results have been mixed. Although no published controlled psychotherapeutic studies have specifically targeted major depression or depressive symptoms in older patients with schizophrenia, psychosocial interventions likely play a role in any comprehensive management plan in this population of patients.
Our recommendations for treating the older patient with schizophrenia and major depression involve a stepwise approach. First, a careful diagnostic assessment to rule out medical or medication causes is important as well as checking whether patients are adherent to treatments. Clinicians should also consider switching patients to an atypical antipsychotic if they are not taking one already. In addition, dose optimization needs to be targeted towards depressive as well as positive and negative psychotic symptoms. If major depression persists, adding an SSRI is a reasonable next step; one needs to start with a low dose and then cautiously titrate upward to reduce depressive symptoms. If remission is not achieved after an adequate treatment duration (8–12 weeks) or with an adequate dose (similar to that used for major depression without schizophrenia), switching to another agent or adding augmenting therapy is recommended.
We recommend treating an acute first episode of depression for at least 6–9 months and consideration of longer treatment for patients with residual symptoms, very severe or highly co-morbid major depression, ongoing episodes or recurrent episodes. Psychosocial interventions aimed at improving adherence, quality of life and function are also recommended. For patients with schizophrenia and subsyndromal depression, a similar approach is recommended.
Psychosis accompanying major depression in patients without schizophrenia is common in elderly patients and is considered a primary mood disorder; for these reasons, it is an important syndrome to consider in the differential diagnosis of older patients with mood and thought disturbance. Treatment for this condition has involved electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as well as combinations of antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. Recent evidence suggests that combination treatment may not be any more effective than antidepressant treatment alone and ECT may be more efficacious overall.
PMCID: PMC3102316  PMID: 18665657
Indian Journal of Psychiatry  1995;37(3):113-118.
Five hundred and ninety two patients attending a psychiatric department as outpatients or as inpatient were included in this study. Details regarding age, sex, diagnosis and drugs prescribed were entered in a proforma. The information regarding drugs prescribed, dosage and the types of reactions were noted. All patients were followed up for a period of 3 to 4 weeks. Incidence of adverse reactions was calculated as percentage of the total number of prescriptions of the same group of drugs. The incidence of reactions to antipsychotic and antidepressants ranged from 35 to 46.9%. The incidence of reactions to haloperidol was higher than the reactions to other drugs. Antianxiety drugs were found to produce only minimal reactions. Two or more drugs prescribed together was associated with a higher incidence of reactions. Among the 193 patients who were reported to have reactions, 65.8% had extrapyramidal symptoms. The frequency of these reactions were highest with antipsychotic drugs haloperidol, chlorpromazine, trifluoperazine and thioridazine in that order. Dystonic reactions were reported within one to two days after the initiation of therapy in a large group of patients. Anticholinergic side effects were associated with prescription of tricyclic antidepressants andphenothiazines. Drowsiness, giddiness and postural hypotension were the other reactions associated with tricyclics.
PMCID: PMC2971493  PMID: 21743730
adverse reactions; psychopharmacological agents
13.  Schizophrenia 
BMJ Clinical Evidence  2012;2012:1007.
The lifetime prevalence of schizophrenia is approximately 0.7% and incidence rates vary between 7.7 and 43.0 per 100,000; about 75% of people have relapses and continued disability, and one third fail to respond to standard treatment. Positive symptoms include auditory hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder. Negative symptoms (demotivation, self-neglect, and reduced emotion) have not been consistently improved by any treatment.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of drug treatments for positive, negative, or cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia? What are the effects of drug treatments in people with schizophrenia who are resistant to standard antipsychotic drugs? What are the effects of interventions to improve adherence to antipsychotic medication in people with schizophrenia? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to May 2010 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
We found 51 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
In this systematic review, we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: amisulpride, chlorpromazine, clozapine, depot haloperidol decanoate, haloperidol, olanzapine, pimozide, quetiapine, risperidone, sulpiride, ziprasidone, zotepine, aripiprazole, sertindole, paliperidone, flupentixol, depot flupentixol decanoate, zuclopenthixol, depot zuclopenthixol decanoate, behavioural therapy, clozapine, compliance therapy, first-generation antipsychotic drugs in treatment-resistant people, multiple-session family interventions, psychoeducational interventions, and second-generation antipsychotic drugs in treatment-resistant people.
Key Points
The lifetime prevalence of schizophrenia is approximately 0.7% and incidence rates vary between 7.7 and 43.0 per 100,000; about 75% of people have relapses and continued disability, and one third fail to respond to standard treatment. Positive symptoms include auditory hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder. Negative symptoms (anhedonia, asociality, flattening of affect, and demotivation) and cognitive dysfunction have not been consistently improved by any treatment.
Standard treatment of schizophrenia has been antipsychotic drugs, the first of which included chlorpromazine and haloperidol, but these so-called first-generation antipsychotics can all cause adverse effects such as extrapyramidal adverse effects, hyperprolactinaemia, and sedation. Attempts to address these adverse effects led to the development of second-generation antipsychotics.
The second-generation antipsychotics amisulpride, clozapine, olanzapine, and risperidone may be more effective at reducing positive symptoms compared with first-generation antipsychotic drugs, but may cause similar adverse effects, plus additional metabolic effects such as weight gain.
CAUTION: Clozapine has been associated with potentially fatal blood dyscrasias. Blood monitoring is essential, and it is recommended that its use be limited to people with treatment-resistant schizophrenia.
Pimozide, quetiapine, aripiprazole, sulpiride, ziprasidone, and zotepine seem to be as effective as standard antipsychotic drugs at improving positive symptoms. Again, these drugs cause similar adverse effects to first-generation antipsychotics and other second-generation antipsychotics.
CAUTION: Pimozide has been associated with sudden cardiac death at doses above 20 mg daily.
We found very little evidence regarding depot injections of haloperidol decanoate, flupentixol decanoate, or zuclopenthixol decanoate; thus, we don’t know if they are more effective than oral treatments at improving symptoms.
In people who are resistant to standard antipsychotic drugs, clozapine may improve symptoms compared with first-generation antipsychotic agents, but this benefit must be balanced against the likelihood of adverse effects. We found limited evidence on other individual first- or second-generation antipsychotic drugs other than clozapine in people with treatment-resistant schizophrenia.In people with treatment-resistant schizophrenia, we don't know how second-generation agents other than clozapine compare with each other or first-generation antipsychotic agents, or how clozapine compares with other second-generation antipsychotic agents, because of a lack of evidence.
We don't know whether behavioural interventions, compliance therapy, psychoeducational interventions, or family interventions improve adherence to antipsychotic medication compared with usual care because of a paucity of good-quality evidence.
It is clear that some included studies in this review have serious failings and that the evidence base for the efficacy of antipsychotic medication and other interventions is surprisingly weak. For example, although in many trials haloperidol has been used as the standard comparator, the clinical trial evidence for haloperidol is less impressive may be expected.
By their very nature, systematic reviews and RCTs provide average indices of probable efficacy in groups of selected individuals. Although some RCTs limit inclusion criteria to a single category of diagnosis, many studies include individuals with different diagnoses such as schizoaffective disorder. In all RCTs, even in those recruiting people with a single DSM or ICD-10 diagnosis, there is considerable clinical heterogeneity.
Genome-wide association studies of large samples with schizophrenia demonstrate that this clinical heterogeneity reflects, in turn, complex biological heterogeneity. For example, genome-wide association studies suggest that around 1000 genetic variants of low penetrance and other individually rare genetic variants of higher penetrance, along with epistasis and epigenetic mechanisms, are thought to be responsible, probably with the biological and psychological effects of environmental factors, for the resultant complex clinical phenotype. A more stratified approach to clinical trials would help to identify those subgroups that seem to be the best responders to a particular intervention.
To date, however, there is little to suggest that stratification on the basis of clinical characteristics successfully helps to predict which drugs work best for which people. There is a pressing need for the development of biomarkers with clinical utility for mental health problems. Such measures could help to stratify clinical populations or provide better markers of efficacy in clinical trials, and would complement the current use of clinical outcome scales. Clinicians are also well aware that many people treated with antipsychotic medication develop significant adverse effects such as extrapyramidal symptoms or weight gain. Again, our ability to identify which people will develop which adverse effects is poorly developed, and might be assisted by using biomarkers to stratify populations.
The results of this review tend to indicate that as far as antipsychotic medication goes, current drugs are of limited efficacy in some people, and that most drugs cause adverse effects in most people. Although this is a rather downbeat conclusion, it should not be too surprising, given clinical experience and our knowledge of the pharmacology of the available antipsychotic medication. All currently available antipsychotic medications have the same putative mechanism of action — namely, dopaminergic antagonism with varying degrees of antagonism at other receptor sites. More efficacious antipsychotic medication awaits a better understanding of the biological pathogenesis of these conditions so that rational treatments can be developed.
PMCID: PMC3385413  PMID: 23870705
14.  Use Pattern and Off-Label Use of Atypical Antipsychotics in Bipolar Disorder, 1998–2002 
American Health & Drug Benefits  2009;2(4):184-191.
Postmarketing surveillance that identifies patients at high risk for receiving off-label medications will help ensure that the benefits of such treatment outweigh the risks. Because many off-label uses have little scientific support, tracking the extent to which they occur as well as the particular circumstances under which they occur is important.
To describe the drug-use pattern for patients with bipolar disorder, and to identify demographic and clinical factors associated with off-label use of atypical antipsychotics before US Food and Drug Administration approval for this indication.
Using the PHARMetrics medical claims database, a total of 105,771 adult patients with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder were evaluated during the 5-year (1998–2002) study period. Study drugs included mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants. Off-label use of an atypical antipsychotic was defined as a patient taking olanzapine before March 2000 (when it received an indication for bipolar disorder) or any other atypical antipsychotic during the entire study period. Logistic regression analysis was used to determine the odds ratio of receiving a drug off-label.
Utilization of and reimbursement for atypical antipsychotics increased during the 5-year period. Of the 10.5% of patients who took atypical antipsychotics, 7.1% took these drugs off-label. In addition, 11% of patients received lithium, 25% received other anticonvulsants, and 34% received antidepressants. Off-label use of atypical antipsychotics was associated with psychiatry specialist prescribers (odds ratio = 1.52; 95% CI, 1.44–1.59) and certain comorbidities, such as substance abuse (odds ratio = 1.51; 95% CI, 1.38–1.66), anxiety disorder (odds ratio = 1.20; 95% CI, 1.14–1.26), diabetes mellitus (odds ratio = 1.26; 95% CI, 1.16–1.37), cerebral vascular disease (odds ratio = 1.26; 95% CI, 1.10–1.45), and hypertension (odds ratio = 1.12; 95% CI, 1.05–1.20). Over time, there has been an increase in the number of drug therapies, including atypical antipsychotics, used to treat bipolar disorder.
Because of the significant association found between atypical antipsychotic use and several key comorbidities, it is important for physicians to recognize these associations and weigh the risks and benefits of atypical antipsychotics in their treatment strategies.
PMCID: PMC4106536  PMID: 25126291
15.  Incidence of Tardive Dyskinesia with Risperidone or Olanzapine in the Elderly: Results from a 2-Year, Prospective Study in Antipsychotic-Naïve Patients 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2011;36(8):1738-1746.
Tardive dyskinesia (TD) rates with second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) are considered to be low relative to first-generation antipsychotics (FGAs), even in the particularly vulnerable elderly population. However, risk estimates are unavailable for patients naïve to FGAs. Therefore, we aimed to determine the TD incidence in particularly vulnerable, antipsychotic-naïve elderly patients treated with the SGA risperidone or olanzapine. The present work describes a prospective inception cohort study of antipsychotic-naïve elderly patients aged ⩾55 years identified at New York Metropolitan area in-patient and out-patient geriatric psychiatry facilities and nursing homes at the time of risperidone or olanzapine initiation. At baseline, 4 weeks, and at quarterly periods, patients underwent assessments of medical and medication history, abnormal involuntary movements, and extra-pyramidal signs. TD was classified using Schooler–Kane criteria. Included in the analyses were 207 subjects (age: 79.8 years, 70.0% female, 86.5% White), predominantly diagnosed with dementia (58.9%) or a major mood disorder (30.9%), although the principal treatment target was psychosis (78.7%), with (59.4%) or without (19.3%) agitation. With risperidone (n=159) the cumulative TD rate was 5.3% (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.7, 9.9%) after 1 year (mean dose: 1.0±0.76 mg/day) and 7.2% (CI: 1.4, 12.9%) after 2 years. With olanzapine (n=48) the cumulative TD rate was 6.7% (CI: 0, 15.6%) after 1 year (mean dose: 4.3±1.9 mg/day) and 11.1% (CI: 0, 23.1%) after 2 years. TD risk was higher in females, African Americans, and patients without past antidepressant treatment or with FGA co-treatment. The TD rates for geriatric patients treated with risperidone and olanzapine were comparable and substantially lower than previously reported for similar patients in direct observation studies using FGAs. This information is relevant for all patients receiving antipsychotics, not just the especially sensitive elderly.
PMCID: PMC3138649  PMID: 21508932
tardive dyskinesia; antipsychotics; olanzapine; risperidone; elderly; cohort study; movement disorders; aging/geriatrics; schizophrenia/antipsychotics; tardive dyskinesia; olanzapine; risperidone; cohort study
16.  Drug Utilization Study of Psychotropic Drugs in Outdoor Patients in a Teaching Hospital 
Psychotropic drugs have had a remarkable impact in psychiatric practice. However, their utilization in actual clinical practice, effectiveness and safety in real life situation need continuous study.
Materials and Methods:
A prospective cross sectional study was carried out for 6 months. Patients of all ages and both sexes were included in the study while in-patients, referred patients and patients of epilepsy were excluded. Using World Health Organization basic drug indicators, the prescribing pattern was analyzed.
The numbers of psychotropic drugs prescribed per patient were 2.96. Anti-anxiety drugs (82.83%) were most frequently prescribed psychotropic drugs in various psychiatric disorders. Usage of antipsychotic drugs was in 70.15% cases. Atypical antipsychotic drugs (43.83%) were prescribed more frequently than the typical antipsychotic drugs (26.32%). Prescribing frequency of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (36.66%) was more than the tricyclic antidepressant (21.96%) and atypical antidepressant drugs (1.83%) in major depression. Use of mood stabilizers was restricted only to bipolar mood disorders. Central anticholinergic drug was co-prescribed in as many as 88.15% patients receiving antipsychotic drugs.
Anti-anxiety drug (Benzodiazepine (BZD)) usage was extensive in various psychiatry disorders. Rational use of BZD requires consideration/attention to dose and duration of usage as well as drug interactions with other psychotropic drugs. Routine use of central anticholinergic drug along with atypical antipsychotic drugs also, could not be justified.
PMCID: PMC3195156  PMID: 22021954
Drug utilization; prescribed daily dose; psychotropic drugs; prescribing pattern
17.  Trends in the prevalence of antipsychotic drug use among patients with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias including those treated with antidementia drugs in the community in the UK: a cohort study 
BMJ Open  2013;3(1):e002080.
To investigate the pattern and trends of use of antipsychotics, antidepressants, hypnotics and anxiolytics in Alzheimer's disease and other dementias and in patients treated with antidementia medications.
Cohort study with dementia patients formed in the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink. Participants Patients with incident dementia, between 1995 and 2011 and a reference non-dementia cohort matched on age, gender and date of dementia diagnosis. Two subcohorts included new users of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChEIs) and memantine. The study endpoint was use of antipsychotics, antidepressants, hypnotics and anxiolytics up to 10 years before and 4 years after dementia diagnosis, and for up to 5 years before and 1 year after first use of AChEI or memantine.
50 349 patients with incident dementia diagnosis and 50 349 matched controls, 10 794 first-time users of AChEI and 669 of memantine. The mean prevalence of antipsychotic use from 1995 to 2011 on diagnosis of dementia was 12.5%, decreasing from 19.9% in 1995 to 7.4% in 2011. There was an increase in antidepressant use (10.7–26.3%) and a small increase in anxiolytic use. The matched cohort showed a lower use of antipsychotics and anxiolytics but a rise in antidepressants (5.9–13.4%). Both groups showed a decrease in hypnotic use. 10.6% of AChEI and 26.3% of memantine users were prescribed antipsychotics, 34.1% and 26.3% antidepressants, 13.2% and 4.1% anxiolytics and 18.4% and 8.3% hypnotics. The slopes for monthly use of antipsychotics were positive in the year leading up to AChEI and memantine use; after treatment initiation the slope for AChEI users continued to increase but at a reduced rate whereas antipsychotic use declined for memantine users.
The marked reduction in antipsychotic use in dementia is to be welcomed while there was a steady increase in antidepressant use. There was a decline in antipsychotic use after the initiation of memantine.
PMCID: PMC3549220  PMID: 23299113
18.  Potential to Enhance the Prescribing of Generic Drugs in Patients with Mental Health Problems in Austria; Implications for the Future 
Background: Scrutiny over pharmaceutical expenditure is increasing leading to multiple reforms. This includes Austria with measures to lower generic prices and enhance their utilization. However the situation for newer antidepressants and atypical antipsychotic medicines (AAPs) is different to PPIs, statins, and renin-angiotensin inhibitor drugs with greater tailoring of therapy and no wish to switch products in stable patients. Authorities welcome generics though given the high costs particularly of single-sourced AAPs. Objective: Assess (a) changes in utilization of venlafaxine versus other newer antidepressants before and after availability of generics, (b) utilization of generic versus originator venlafaxine, (c) price reductions of venlafaxine over time and their influence on total expenditure, (d) utilization of risperidone versus other AAPs, (e) suggest potential additional reforms that could be introduced if pertinent to further enhance the use of generics. Methodology: A quasi-experimental study design with a segmented time series and an observational study. Utilization measured in defined daily doses (DDDs) and total expenditure per DDD and over time. Results: No appreciable changes in the utilization of venlafaxine and risperidone after generics. The reduction in expenditure/DDD for venlafaxine decreased overall expenditure on newer antidepressants by 5% by the end of the study versus just before generics despite a 37% increase in utilization. Expenditure will further decrease if reduced prescribing of duloxetine. Conclusion: Depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar diseases are complex diseases. As a result, specific measures are needed to encourage the prescribing of generic risperidone and venlafaxine when multiple choices are appropriate. Authorities cannot rely on a “Hawthorne” effect between classes to enhance the use of generics. Measures may include prescribing restrictions for duloxetine. No specific measures planned for AAPs with more multiple-sourced AAPs becoming available.
PMCID: PMC3538280  PMID: 23308071
Austria; antidepressants; atypical antipsychotics; drug utilization studies; generics; risperidone; reforms; schizophrenia
19.  Neuropsychiatric Adverse Effects of Interferon-α 
CNS drugs  2005;19(2):105-123.
Recombinant preparations of the cytokine interferon (IFN)-α are increasingly used to treat a number of medical conditions, including chronic viral hepatitis and several malignancies. Although frequently effective, IFNα induces a variety of neuropsychiatric adverse effects, including an acute confusional state that develops rapidly after initiation of high-dose IFNα, a depressive syndrome that develops more slowly over weeks to months of treatment, and manic conditions most often characterised by extreme irritability and agitation, but also occasionally by euphoria. Acute IFNα-induced confusional states are typically characterised by disorientation, lethargy, somnolence, psychomotor retardation, difficulties with speaking and writing, parkinsonism and psychotic symptoms. Strategies for managing delirium should be employed, including treatment of contributing medical conditions, use of either typical or atypical antipsychotic agents and avoidance of medications likely to worsen mental status. Significant depressive symptoms occur in 21–58% of patients receiving IFNα, with symptoms typically manifesting over the first several months of treatment. The most replicated risk factor for developing depression is the presence of mood and anxiety symptoms prior to treatment. Other potential, but less frequently replicated, risk factors include a past history of major depression, being female and increasing IFNα dosage and treatment duration. The available data support two approaches to the pharmacological management of IFNα-induced depression: antidepressant pretreatment or symptomatic treatment once IFNα has been initiated. Pretreatment might be best reserved for patients already receiving antidepressants or for patients who endorse depression or anxiety symptoms of mild or greater severity prior to therapy. Several recent studies demonstrate that antidepressants effectively treat IFNα-induced depression once it has developed, allowing the vast majority of subjects to complete treatment successfully. Recent data suggest that IFNα-induced depression may be composed of two overlapping syndromes: a depression-specific syndrome characterised by mood, anxiety and cognitive complaints, and a neurovegetative syndrome characterised by fatigue, anorexia, pain and psychomotor slowing. Depression-specific symptoms are highly responsive to serotonergic antidepressants, whereas neurovegetative symptoms are significantly less responsive to these agents. These symptoms may he more effectively treated by agents that modulate catecholaminergic functioning, such as combined serotonin-noradrenaline (norepinephrine) antidepressants, bupropion, psychostimulants or modafinil. Additional factors to consider in selecting an antidepressant include potential drug-drug interactions and adverse effect profile. Finally. IFNα appears capable of inducing manic symptoms. Mania, especially when severe, is a clinical emergency. When this occurs, IFNα and antidepressants should be stopped, an emergency psychiatric consultation should he obtained, and treatment with a mood stabiliser should be initiated.
PMCID: PMC1255968  PMID: 15697325
20.  Prescribing of psychotropic medications to the elderly population of a Canadian province: a retrospective study using administrative databases 
PeerJ  2013;1:e168.
Background. Psychotropic medications, in particular second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) and benzodiazepines, have been associated with harm in elderly populations. Health agencies around the world have issued warnings about the risks of prescribing such medications to frail individuals affected by dementia and current guidelines recommend their use only in cases where the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. This study documents the use of psychotropic medications in the entire elderly population of a Canadian province in the context of current clinical guidelines for the treatment of behavioural disturbances.
Methods. Prevalent and incident utilization of antipsychotics, benzodiazepines and related medications (zopiclone and zaleplon) were determined in the population of Manitobans over age 65 in the time period 1997/98 to 2008/09 fiscal years. Comparisons between patients living in the community and those living in personal care (nursing) homes (PCH) were conducted. Influence of sociodemographic characteristics on prescribing was assessed by generalized estimating equations. Non-optimal use was defined as the prescribing of high dose of antipsychotic medications and the use of combination therapy of a benzodiazepine (or zopiclone/zaleplon) with an antipsychotic. A decrease in intensity of use over time and lower proportions of patients treated with antipsychotics at high dose or in combination with benzodiazepines (or zopiclone/zaleplon) was considered a trend toward better prescribing. Multiple regression analysis determined predictors of non-optimal use in the elderly population.
Results. A 20-fold greater prevalent utilization of SGAs was observed in PCH-dwelling elderly persons compared to those living in the community. In 2008/09, 27% of PCH-dwelling individuals received a prescription for an SGA. Patient characteristics, such as younger age, male gender, diagnoses of dementia (or use of an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor) or psychosis in the year prior the prescription, were predictors of non-optimal prescribing (e.g., high dose antipsychotics). During the period 2002/3 and 2007/8, amongst new users of SGAs, 10.2% received high doses. Those receiving high dose antipsychotics did not show high levels of polypharmacy.
Conclusions. Despite encouraging trends, the use of psychotropic medications remains high in elderly individuals, especially in residents of nursing homes. Clinicians caring for such patients need to carefully assess risks and benefits.
PMCID: PMC3792174  PMID: 24109553
Antipsychotic; Benzodiazepines; Elderly; Prescribing; Psychotropic
21.  Survey on schizophrenia treatment in Mexico: perception and antipsychotic prescription patterns 
BMC Psychiatry  2004;4:12.
Since the introduction of antipsychotics, especially the so called atypicals, the treatment of schizophrenia has shown important improvements. At the present time, it is preferred to label clozapine and other antipsychotics sharing similar profiles as second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs). These medications have been proposed by some experts as a first line treatment for schizophrenia.
It is critical to have reliable data about antipsychotic prescription in Mexico and to create management guidelines based on expert meetings and not only on studies carried out by the pharmaceutical industry. Only this approach will help to make the right decisions for the treatment of schizophrenia.
A translated version of Rabinowitz's survey was used to evaluate antipsychotic prescription preferences and patterns in Mexican psychiatrists.
The survey questionnaire was sent by mail to 200 psychiatrists from public institutions and private practice in Mexico City and Guadalajara, Mexico.
Recommendations for antipsychotics daily doses at different stages of the treatment of schizophrenia varied widely.
Haloperidol was considered as the first choice for the treatment of positive symptoms. On the contrary, risperidone was the first option for negative symptoms. For a patient with a high susceptibility for developing extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS), risperidone was the first choice.
It was also considered that SGAs had advantages over typical antipsychotics in the management of negative symptoms, cognitive impairment and fewer EPS.
Besides, there was a clear tendency for prescribing typical antipsychotics at higher doses than recommended and inadequate doses for the atypical ones.
Some of the obstacles for the prescription of SGAs include their high cost, deficient knowledge about their indications and dosage, the perception of their being less efficient for the treatment of positive symptoms and the resistance of some Mexican physicians to change their prescription pattern. It is necessary to reach a consensus, in order to establish and standardize the treatment of schizophrenia, based on the information reported in clinical trials and prevailing economic conditions in Mexico.
PMCID: PMC416660  PMID: 15109398
22.  Evaluation of Defined Daily Dose, percentage of British National Formulary maximum and chlorpromazine equivalents in antipsychotic drug utilization 
The present study was carried out to investigate and compare the three methods for calculating total antipsychotic dose among outpatients with schizophrenia attending primary psychiatric health care centers. The three methods were: Defined Daily Doses (DDDs), chlorpromazine equivalents (CPZeq) and percentages of the British National Formulary (BNF) maximum.
Antipsychotic drug dosing data for 250 patients with schizophrenia were investigated by calculating Spearman’s rank correlation coefficients. Factors associated with antipsychotic dose, expressed as DDDs, CPZeq and percentages of the BNF maximum recommended daily dose, were investigated by means of linear regression analysis.
Spearman’s correlation showed that there is a significant relationship between all pairs of the three dosing methods. In all three methods, coherence was strongest when dealing with first generation antipsychotics (FGA). Linear regression analyses showed a high degree of coherence between antipsychotic doses expressed as DDDs, CPZeq and percentages of the BNF maximum recommended daily dose.
All three tested methods are reliable and coherent for calculating antipsychotic dosing.
PMCID: PMC3950502  PMID: 24648824
%BNFmax, percentage of British National Formulary maximum; CPZeq, chlorpromazine equivalents; DDD, Defined Daily Dose (DDD); FGA, first generation antipsychotics; SGA, second generation antipsychotics; Antipsychotics; Chlorpromazine equivalents; Defined Daily Doses; Schizophrenia
23.  Factors associated with non evidence-based prescribing of antipsychotics 
Non evidence-based prescribing of antipsychotics is common in the UK and internationally with high doses and polypharmacy the norm. These practices often remain even after systematic attempts are made to change. We aimed to establish which factors are linked to antipsychotic prescribing quality so we can identify and target patients for interventions to improve quality and allow us to understand further the drivers of non evidence-based prescribing.
A cross-sectional survey with a collection of factors potentially affecting antipsychotic prescribing quality outcomes was carried out in eight secondary care units in England. Participants were inpatients prescribed regular antipsychotics on the day of the survey. Antipsychotic dose, polypharmacy, type and route were the main outcome measures.
Data were collected for 1198 patients. Higher total dose was associated with greater weight, higher number of previous admissions, longer length of admission, noncompliance with medication and use of an atypical antipsychotic. A lower total dose was associated with clozapine use. Polypharmacy was associated with not being a patient at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust centre, the subject having a forensic history, a greater number of previous admissions and higher total dose. Younger age, not being detained under a Mental Health Act section, atypical antipsychotic use and oral route were predictors of antipsychotic monotherapy. Atypical antipsychotic use was associated with oral route, higher total dose, being administered only one antipsychotic, having had fewer previous antipsychotics and no anticholinergic use. Use of the oral route was associated with not being sectioned under the Mental Health Act, atypical antipsychotic use, younger age, non-schizophrenia diagnosis, fewer previous admissions and a lower total dose.
In patients with chronic illness who are detained, heavier, noncompliant, not taking clozapine and on a depot antipsychotic, prescribers use larger doses and antipsychotic polypharmacy. We found that use of percentage of licensed maximum doses favours typical antipsychotics arbitrarily, and that high doses and polypharmacy are inextricably linked.
PMCID: PMC4257982  PMID: 25489476
antipsychotic agents; ethnology; drug administration routes; clozapine; polypharmacy; inappropriate prescribing
24.  Effects of legal and illegal use of benzodiazepines at acute admission to a psychiatric acute department 
BMC Research Notes  2010;3:263.
In the psychiatric acute and emergency services patients present in severe crisis often complicated by behavioral problems, substance use, and multiple axis 1 diagnoses. In these clinical settings both legal and illegal use of benzodiazepines are difficult to evaluate since benzodiazepines could in some patients be regarded as first line treatment and in other patients as the cause of the acute psychiatric condition. The aims of this study were to evaluate the frequency and clinical effects of both legal and illegal use of benzodiazepines at admittance to a psychiatric acute department.
All patients acutely admitted to a Norwegian acute psychiatric university department serving a catchment area were asked about use of benzodiazepines, other medications and substances before admission. Patients were asked to give urine samples for analyses of benzodiazepines and substances.
In 227 consecutive admissions there was legal use of benzodiazepines before admission in 39%, illegal use in 13% and no use in 48%. Patients with legal use of benzodiazepines were older, used more often antidepressants and a higher number of prescribed psychotropic medications. Illegal users of benzodiazepines more often used other illegal substances, were evaluated as clinically affected by a substance at admittance and were diagnosed with a substance use disorder. Patients with psychoses or major affective disorders treated with adequate medication (antidepressants, antipsychotics or mood-stabilizers) before admission more often received benzodiazepines than patients without adequate medication.
The patients using benzodiazepines at admittance to psychiatric acute departments could be divided in illegal and legal users. The illegal users were young, used illegal substances and were more often regarded clinically affected by substances at admittance. The legal users were older, did not use other substances and were not regarded as clinically affected by substances at admittance. Benzodiazepines were used as adjuvant therapy to specific pharmacological treatment with antidepressants, antipsychotics or mood stabilizers for major psychiatric disorders.
Trial registration
NCT 00184119/NCT 00184132
PMCID: PMC2974733  PMID: 20958975
25.  Prescription Patterns for Patients with Schizophrenia in Korea: A Focus on Antipsychotic Polypharmacy 
This study investigated the prescription patterns for Korean patients with schizophrenia with a particular focus on antipsychotic polypharmacy. All data were gathered from patients presenting at 41 tertiary university hospitals and 8 secondary hospitals.
Data from three multicenter studies conducted in Korea were retrospectively reviewed and integrated to identify patients with schizophrenia who had their antipsychotic medication switched to paliperidone extended-release between 2008 and 2009. The rates for antipsychotic polypharmacy, combined use of different antipsychotic classes with a special focus on atypical antipsychotics, and psychotropic polypharmacy using benzodiazepines, mood stabilizers, and other relevant drugs were identified.
Of the 851 Korean patients analyzed in this study, 20.4% (n=173) had been prescribed antipsychotic polypharmacy. Of the 678 patients receiving antipsychotic monotherapy, 6.9% (n=47) were prescribed a typical antipsychotic and 93.1% (n=631) were prescribed an atypical antipsychotic. Of the 173 patients receiving a combination of antipsychotic drugs, only 6.4% (n=11) had been prescribed polypharmacy with typical antipsychotics, while 46.82% (n=81) were prescribed atypical+atypical antipsychotics or typical+atypical antipsychotics. The highest co-prescription rates for other psychotropic drugs in conjunction with antipsychotics included benzodiazepines (30.3%), anticholinergic drugs (28.8%), antidepressants (13.3%), β-blockers (10.1%), and mood stabilizers (8.7%).
The present findings demonstrate that the rate of antipsychotic polypharmacy is relatively low in Korea and that Korean clinicians prefer to prescribe atypical, rather than typical, antipsychotic drugs. This suggests that there is a distinct prescription pattern in Korea that is focused on antipsychotic polypharmacy.
PMCID: PMC4153859  PMID: 25191503
Schizophrenia; Antipsychotic agents; Polypharmacy; Psychotropic drugs

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