First-Episode Schizophrenics Benefit From 2 Years of Maintenance Therapy

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Jul 20 – Even when a year has passed since a first schizophrenia episode, maintenance therapy is better than intermittent drug treatment, according to results from a randomized trial in Germany.

Clinical practice guidelines already recommend antipsychotic maintenance treatment for at least a year after a first schizophrenia episode. “Based on our findings, patients should be advised to further maintain antipsychotic treatment for at least two years, given the otherwise noticeable higher risk for relapse,” lead author Dr. Wolfgang Gaebel from Heinrich-Heine-University, Duesseldorf, told Reuters Health by e-mail.

Dr. Gaebel and colleagues compared a second year of maintenance treatment versus stepwise drug discontinuation and targeted intermittent treatment in 44 patients who had already completed 12 months of antipsychotic therapy.

There were no relapses in the maintenance treatment group, compared with four relapses (19%) in 21 patients in the intermittent treatment group (p = 0.04), the researchers reported online June 29th in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

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