Impact of atypical antipsychotics on quality of life in patients with schizophrenia

CNS Drugs. 2004;18(13):877-93. doi: 10.2165/00023210-200418130-00004.


Schizophrenia is a long-term disabling illness that affects approximately 1% of the population. Its course is generally chronic with acute psychotic exacerbations that may require frequent hospitalisations. The clinical picture includes a range of symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, agitation, suspiciousness, hostility, conceptual disorganisation, blunted affect, emotional and social withdrawal, lack of spontaneity, poverty of speech and a wide range of neurocognitive deficits. Over the past 50 years, antipsychotic medications have emerged as the cornerstone of management in concert with other important interventions, such as psychosocial and economic support and rehabilitation efforts. However, the unrivalled role of conventional antipsychotic medications has been continuously challenged by the wide range of adverse effects of these medications and their lack of usefulness in the treatment of neurocognitive deficits as well as deficit and negative symptoms. In addition, the lack of subjective tolerability of these agents and their negative impact on quality of life have complicated management for a large number of patients. Over the last 15 years, several new atypical antipsychotic medications have been introduced, including amisulpride, remoxipride, risperidone, sertindole, olanzapine, zotepine, quetiapine, ziprasidone and aripiprazole. In general, the new antipsychotics have shown themselves to be at least comparable in efficacy to conventional antipsychotics but with superior subjective tolerability and a more favourable adverse effect profile. The majority of quality of life studies involving new antipsychotic agents have evaluated the benefits of risperidone, olanzapine and clozapine; only a few studies have examined the effects of other new antipsychotics. While most of these studies have methodological and design limitations, the weight of evidence from them nevertheless points to a trend towards a more positive impact on quality of life with atypical agents. A number of recommendations can be made. First, more independent well designed and controlled studies are urgently needed to evaluate the effects of antipsychotic therapy on quality of life in patients with schizophrenia. New comparative studies should explore not only the differences between new and old antipsychotics but also identify any potential differences between individual new agents. The role of cost-effectiveness studies such as cost utility approaches in schizophrenia needs to be revisited, notwithstanding the fact that these types of studies have been reported to be feasible in schizophrenia. Finally, quality-of-life-based pharmacoeconomic studies of antipsychotic agents should not concentrate solely on cost reduction or containment, as it is likely that in order to maximise the benefits of new antipsychotic medications, greater expenditure on rehabilitation programmes and other support services will be necessary in the short-term at least.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / economics
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Economics, Pharmaceutical
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*


  • Antipsychotic Agents