Discontinuation of treatment of schizophrenic patients is driven by poor symptom response: a pooled post-hoc analysis of four atypical antipsychotic drugs
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BMC Medicine 2005, 3:21 doi:10.1186/1741-7015-3-21Published: 23 December 2005
Stopping antipsychotic treatment can interrupt improvement and exacerbate the illness. The reasons for discontinuing treatment during controlled clinical trials were analyzed to explore this phenomenon.
A post-hoc, pooled analysis was made of 4 randomized, double-blind clinical trials, 24–28 weeks in duration, involving 1627 patients with schizophrenia or a related disorder. Analyses combined all the atypical antipsychotic treatment groups in the studies.
The majority of patients (53%) stopped their treatment at an early stage. Poor psychiatric response along with worsening symptoms was the most frequently given reason for discontinuing the course (36%), which was substantially more common than discontinuation due to poor tolerability of the medication (12%). This phenomenon was corroborated by less improvement in patients who discontinued treatment compared with those who completed, based on the PANSS total scores. Discontinuation due to poor response was, apparently, more predominantly linked to patient perception than to physicians' conclusions alone (80% vs. 20%). Discontinuation due to patient perception of poor response appeared to occur particularly early in the course of treatment. Patients who discontinued due to poor toleration of the medication responded in a more comparable manner with completers.
Discontinuing treatment may lead to exacerbation of symptoms, undermining therapeutic progress. In these studies, poor response to treatment and worsening of underlying psychiatric symptoms, and to a lesser extent, intolerability to medication were the primary contributors to treatment being discontinued. Our findings suggest that adherence may be enhanced by effective symptom control, as objectively measured and as subjectively perceived. Such strategies may improve patients' willingness to undertake long-term therapy and increase the likelihood of a better prognosis.