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Study Casts Doubt on New Antipsychotics

Filed August 15th, 2012 Laurie

A new review suggests that newer drugs used to treat schizophrenia are not superior to their older, cheaper counterparts.

About 75 percent of patients who are prescribed antipsychotic medication are taking second-generation drugs, which were developed to work effectively without some of the nasty side effects of the first-generation drugs.

First-generation antipsychotics are known as typical antipsychotics, and include drugs like chlorpromazine (Thorazine), haloperidol (Haldol), perphenazine (Etrafon, Trilafon) and fluphenazine (Prolixin). Second-generation antipsychotics are known as atypical antipsychotics and include risperidone (Risperdal), aripiprazole (Abilify), olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine Fumarate (Seroquel) and ziprasidone (Geodon). The difference in price between first-generation and second-generation drugs can be hundreds of dollars a month.

Researchers at the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reviewed 114 studies involving 22 comparisons between the two classes of drugs to find out if the newest drugs are really more effective. The review appears in the Aug. 14 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The review found that second-generation drugs are not more effective than first-generation ones. Researchers say there was insufficient evidence to compare the two classes of drugs.

“The typical antipsychotics that have been around for a long time are just as good at treating schizophrenia symptoms as the newer ones,” said Dr. Dolores Malaspina, director of the Institute for Social and Psychiatric Initiatives at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Some psychiatrists and medical professionals disagree, saying first-generation antipsychotics have fewer side effect and come with fewer diagnosing limitations.

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