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Keywords:

  • schizophrenia;
  • antipsychotics;
  • clinical aspects;
  • compliance;
  • adherence;
  • epidemiology

Objective

Clozapine is underutilized in the management of treatment-resistant schizophrenia. To understand contributing factors, we analyzed the frequency and causes of clozapine discontinuations that occurred over a 15-year period in a clinical setting.

Method

Data were extracted from computerized records and from mandatory termination reports for discontinuation events 1993–2007. The reasons for termination were analyzed.

Results

Over half of the patients (n = 183/320; 57%) had at least one discontinuation (median time 609 days). The two most common causes for discontinuation were non-adherence (35%) and side-effects (28%). Hematological side-effects accounted for 45% of all side-effect associated discontinuations; most such patients remained eligible for clozapine treatment, and a significant fraction remained on clozapine after rechallenge. Central nervous system side-effects accounted for 35% of side-effect induced discontinuations. General factors significantly associated with discontinuation were African American race, older age at initiation of clozapine and less improvement in psychiatric symptoms.

Conclusion

In addition to anticipating and addressing causes of non-adherence, psychiatrists should consider clozapine rechallenge in eligible patients and implement measures to mitigate clozapine-associated sedation, seizures, and other side-effects. Future studies should particularly address why African American and older patients may be more likely to discontinue clozapine.