Dose Reduction/Discontinuation Strategy Associated with Higher Long-Term Recovery Rates for Remitted First-Episode Psychosis Patients

Dose reduction/discontinuation (DR) of antipsychotics during the early stages of remitted first-episode psychosis (FEP) shows higher long-term recovery rates compared with the rates achieved with maintenance treatment (MT), according to a study by Lex Wunderink, M.D., Ph.D., of Friesland Mental Health Services, Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, and colleagues.

This study was a follow up study of 128 patients who had participated in a two-year open randomized clinical trial comparing MT and DR from October 2001 to December 2002. After six months of remission, patients were randomly assigned to DR strategy or MT for 18 months, and after the trial, treatment was at the discretion of the physician. Researchers contacted patients 5 years after the trial had ended, and 103 patients consented to participate in a follow up interview about the course and outcomes of psychosis.

The DR patients (n=52) experienced twice the recovery rate of the MT patients (n=51) (40.4 percent versus 17.6 percent). Better DR recovery rates were related to higher functional remission rates in the DR group but were not related to symptomatic remission rates, according to the study results.

“To our knowledge, this study is the first to identify major advantages of a DR strategy over MT in patients with remission of FEP.” The authors write, “the results of this study lead to the following conclusions: schizophrenia treatment strategy trials should include recovery or functional remission rates as their primary outcome and should also include long-term follow-up for more than 2 years, even up to 7 years or longer…benefits that were not evident in short-term evaluations, such as functional gains, only appeared during long-term monitoring.”

(JAMA Psychiatry. Published online July 3, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.19.