Second-generation antipsychotic medications appear to offer little advantage over older drugs

Among patients with schizophrenia whose medication is changed because of ineffectiveness or harmful side effects, second-generation antipsychotic drugs do not appear to offer significant benefits compared to first-generation antipsychotic drugs, according to a report in the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. The findings run contrary to the widely held perception that second-generation antipsychotic agents are safer and more effective in treating patients with schizophrenia than the less-expensive first-generation class of medications.

For almost 50 years, antipsychotic medications have been the primary method of treating schizophrenia, a psychiatric disorder that causes a disconnect from reality and severe disturbances in thought, mood and behavior. Patients taking first-generation antipsychotics--so called because they were developed first--often relapse or develop severe side effects, including sedation (feeling tranquilized) and involuntary muscle movements, according to background information in the article. The development of second-generation antipsychotics was thought to be a major advance primarily because the drugs reduced such side effects. Claims that second-generation drugs are more effective than first-generation drugs have shifted treatment patterns away from first-generation medications, although research comparing the drug classes has had mixed results.

Peter B. Jones, M.D., Ph.D., University of Cambridge and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health NHS Trust, Cambridge, England, and colleagues studied 227 individuals age 18 to 65 with schizophrenia. "The key question was whether the additional acquisition costs of second-generation antipsychotics over first-generation antipsychotics would be offset by improvements in health-related quality of life or savings in the use of other health and social care services in people with schizophrenia for whom a change in drug trea

Contact: Peter B. Jones, M.D., Ph.D.
JAMA and Archives Journals

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