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Open Access Research article

Assessment of strategies for switching patients from olanzapine to risperidone: A randomized, open-label, rater-blinded study

Rohan Ganguli5*, Jaspreet S Brar1, Ramy Mahmoud2, Sally A Berry3 and Gahan J Pandina4

Author Affiliations

1 Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2593, USA

2 Ethicon, Inc., US Highway 22 West, Somerville, NJ 08876, USA

3 Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, LLC, Trenton-Harbourton Road, Titusville, NJ 08560, USA

4 Ortho McNeil Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC, Trenton-Harbourton Road, Titusville, NJ 08560, USA

5 University of Toronto, Center for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, ON M6J1H4, Canada

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BMC Medicine 2008, 6:17  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-6-17

Published: 30 June 2008



In clinical practice, physicians often need to change the antipsychotic medications they give to patients because of an inadequate response or the presence of unacceptable or unsafe side effects. However, there is a lack of consensus in the field as to the optimal switching strategy for antipsychotics, especially with regards to the speed at which the dose of the previous antipsychotic should be reduced. This paper assesses the short-term results of strategies for the discontinuation of olanzapine when initiating risperidone.


In a 6-week, randomized, open-label, rater-blinded study, patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, on a stable drug dose for more than 30 days at entry, who were intolerant of or exhibiting a suboptimal symptom response to more than 30 days of olanzapine treatment, were randomly assigned to the following switch strategies (common risperidone initiation scheme; varying olanzapine discontinuation): (i) abrupt strategy, where olanzapine was discontinued at risperidone initiation; (ii) gradual 1 strategy, where olanzapine was given at 50% entry dose for 1 week after risperidone initiation and then discontinued; or (iii) gradual 2 strategy, where olanzapine was given at 100% entry dose for 1 week, then at 50% in the second week, and then discontinued.


The study enrolled 123 patients on stable doses of olanzapine. Their mean age was 40.3 years and mean (± standard deviation (SD)) baseline Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) total score of 75.6 ± 11.5. All-cause treatment discontinuation was lowest (12%) in the group with the slowest olanzapine dose reduction (gradual 2) and occurred at half the discontinuation rate in the other two groups (25% in abrupt and 28% in gradual 1). The relative risk of early discontinuation was 0.77 (confidence interval 0.61–0.99) for the slowest dose reduction compared with the other two strategies. After the medication was changed, improvements at endpoint were seen in PANSS total score (-7.3; p < 0.0001) and in PANSS positive (-3.0; p < 0.0001), negative (-0.9; p = 0.171) and anxiety/depression (-1.4; p = 0.0005) subscale scores. Severity of movement disorders and weight changes were minimal.


When switching patients from olanzapine to risperidone, a gradual reduction in the dose of olanzapine over 2 weeks was associated with higher rates of retention compared with abrupt or less gradual discontinuation. Switching via any strategy was associated with significant improvements in positive and anxiety symptoms and was generally well tolerated.

Trial registration NCT00378183