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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2010;12(3):345-57.

Pharmacologic treatment of schizophrenia.

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  • 1Zucker Hillside Hospital, 75-59 263rd Street, Glen Oaks, NY 11004, USA. psychiatry@lij.edu


Despite pharmacologic advances, the treatment of schizophrenia remains a challenge, and suboptimal outcomes are still all too frequent. Although treatment goals of response, remission, and recovery have been defined more uniformly, a good "effectiveness" measure mapping onto functional outcomes is still lacking. Moreover, the field has to advance in transferring measurement-based approaches from research to clinical practice. There is an ongoing debate whether, and which, first- or second-generation antipsychotics should be used. However an individualized treatment approach needs to consider current symptoms, comorbid conditions, past therapeutic response, and adverse effects, as well as patient choice and expectations. Moreover acute and long-term goals and effects of medication treatment need to be balanced. While the acute response to appropriately dosed first-generation antipsychotics may not differ much from second-generation antipsychotics, advantages of lower rates of extrapyramidal side effects, tardive dyskinesia, and, possibly, relapse may favor second-generation antipsychotics. However when considering individual adverse effect profiles, the differentiation into first- and second-generation antipsychotics as unified classes can not be upheld, and a more differentiated view and treatment selection is required. To date, clozapine is the only evidence-based treatment for refractory patients, and the role of antipsychotic polypharmacy and other augmentation strategies remains unclear, at best. To improve the treatment outcomes in schizophrenia, research efforts are needed that elucidate biomarkers of the illness and of treatment response (both therapeutic and adverse effects). Moreover, new treatment options are needed that affect nondopaminergic targets with relevance for symptom reduction, relapse prevention, enhanced efficacy for nonresponders, and reduced key adverse effects.

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