Study: Benefits of antipsychotic drugs outweigh the risks

Nearly 7 million Americans take antipsychotic medications for the treatment of schizophrenia and other related conditions.
By Amy Wallace   |   May 5, 2017 at 10:51 AM
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May 5 (UPI) -- Columbia University researchers have found antipsychotic medications do not have negative long-term effects on patients with schizophrenia and other disorders.

Researchers from Columbia in collaboration with colleagues from the United States, Germany, The Netherlands, Japan, China and Austria found the benefits of antipsychotic medications are much greater than their side effects.

Antipsychotic medications are prescribed to alleviate the symptoms of psychosis and to prevent possible relapse. Concerns have been raised recently about possible toxic effects, which could negatively impact long-term outcomes.

So researchers set out to examine the safety and effectiveness of long-term antipsychotic use to treat schizophrenia.

"The evidence from randomized clinical trials and neuroimaging studies overwhelmingly suggests that the majority of patients with schizophrenia benefit from antipsychotic treatment, both in the initial presentation of the disease and for longer-term maintenance to prevent relapse," Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, professor and chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeon and director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, said in a press release. "Anyone who doubts this conclusion should talk with people whose symptoms have been relieved by treatment and literally given back their lives."

The research revealed that delaying or withholding treatment was associated with poorer long-term outcomes.

"While a minority of patients who recover from an initial psychotic episode may maintain their remission without antipsychotic treatment, there is currently no clinical biomarker to identify them, and it is a very small number of patients who may fall into this subgroup," Lieberman said. "Consequently, withholding treatment could be detrimental for most patients with schizophrenia."

The study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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