Objective: The authors tested the hypothesis that a dopamine D(2) receptor occupancy level between 60% and 70% in patients with recent-onset schizophrenia would result in optimal subjective experience. In addition, they sought preliminary evidence on whether subjective experience is better with low-dose olanzapine than with low-dose haloperidol.
Method: Subjects (N=24) who met DSM-IV criteria for schizophrenia were randomly assigned to 6 weeks of double-blind treatment with either olanzapine, 7.5 mg/day, or haloperidol, 2.5 mg/day. Subjective experience, psychopathology, and extrapyramidal symptoms were assessed at baseline and at endpoint. After 6 weeks, D(2) receptor occupancy was assessed with [(123)I]iodobenzamide single photon emission computed tomography.
Results: The two study groups were similar at baseline. After 6 weeks, patients receiving olanzapine had a significantly lower mean dopamine D(2) receptor occupancy (51.0%, range=36%-67%) than those given haloperidol (65.5%, range=45%-75%). Receptor occupancy between 60% and 70% was associated with optimal subjective experience, and subjective experience improved significantly in the haloperidol group.
Conclusions: A level of D(2) receptor occupancy between 60% and 70% is optimal for subjective experience of patients with recent-onset schizophrenia. Substantial interindividual variation in D(2) receptor occupancy was seen at fixed low-dose levels of olanzapine and haloperidol. Olanzapine, 7.5 mg/day, showed no superior subjective response over haloperidol, 2.5 mg/day. Olanzapine may need to be dosed higher than 7.5 mg/day for most patients with recent-onset schizophrenia, and haloperidol needs to be individually titrated in the very low dose range to reach optimal occupancy.