Extrapyramidal symptoms with atypical antipsychotics : incidence, prevention and management

Drug Saf. 2005;28(3):191-208. doi: 10.2165/00002018-200528030-00002.


The treatment of schizophrenia changed drastically with the discovery of antipsychotic medications in the 1950s, the release of clozapine in the US in 1989 and the subsequent development of the atypical or novel antipsychotics. These newer medications differ from their conventional counterparts, primarily based on their reduced risk of extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS). EPS can be categorised as acute (dystonia, akathisia and parkinsonism) and tardive (tardive dyskinesia and tardive dystonia) syndromes. They are thought to have a significant impact on subjective tolerability and adherence with antipsychotic therapy in addition to impacting function. Unlike conventional antipsychotic medications, atypical antipsychotics have a significantly diminished risk of inducing acute EPS at recommended dose ranges. These drugs may also have a reduced risk of causing tardive dyskinesia and in some cases may have the ability to suppress pre-existing tardive dyskinesia. This paper reviews the available evidence regarding the incidence of acute EPS and tardive syndromes with atypical antipsychotic therapy. Estimates of incidence are subject to several confounds, including differing methods for detection and diagnosis of EPS, pretreatment effects and issues surrounding the administration of antipsychotic medications. The treatment of acute EPS and tardive dyskinesia now includes atypical antipsychotic therapy itself, although other adjunctive strategies such as antioxidants have also shown promise in preliminary trials. The use of atypical antipsychotics as first line therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia is based largely on their reduced risk of EPS compared with conventional antipsychotics. Nevertheless, EPS with these drugs can occur, particularly when prescribed at high doses. The EPS advantages offered by the atypical antipsychotics must be balanced against other important adverse effects, such as weight gain and diabetes mellitus, now known to be associated with these drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / drug therapy
  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Humans


  • Antipsychotic Agents