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Effects of polypharmacy on outcome in patients with schizophrenia in routine psychiatric treatment


Gerhard Längle, Zentrum für Psychiatrie Südwürttemberg, Zentralbereich Medizin, Pfarrer-Leube-Str. 29, D-88427 Bad Schussenried, Germany.


Längle G, Steinert T, Weiser P, Schepp W, Jaeger S, Pfiffner C, Frasch K, Eschweiler GW, Messer T, Croissant D, Becker T, Kilian R. Effects of polypharmacy on outcome in patients with schizophrenia in routine psychiatric treatment.

Objective:  Evaluating the effects of different types of psychotropic polypharmacy on clinical outcomes and quality of life (QOL) in 374 patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder in routine care.

Method:  Psychotropic regimen, clinical outcomes, and QOL were assessed before discharge and after 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. Data were analyzed by mixed-effects regression models for longitudinal data controlling for selection bias by means of propensity scores.

Results:  At baseline 22% of participants received antipsychotic monotherapy (APM) (quetiapine, olanzapine, or risperidone), 20% more than one antipsychotic drug, 16% received antipsychotics combined with antidepressants, 16% antipsychotics plus benzodiazepines, 11.5% had antipsychotics and mood stabilizers, and 16% psychotropic drugs from three or more subclasses. Patients receiving APM had better clinical characteristics and QOL at baseline. Patients receiving i) antipsychotics plus benzodiazepines or ii) antipsychotics plus drugs from at least two additional psychotropic drug categories improved less than patients with APM.

Conclusion:  Combinations of antipsychotics with other psychotropic drugs seem to be effective in special indications. Nevertheless, combinations with benzodiazepines and with compounds from multiple drug classes should be critically reviewed. It is unclear whether poorer outcomes in patients with such treatment are its result or its cause.