Hospital use of antipsychotic drugs: polytherapy

Compr Psychiatry. Jan-Feb 2008;49(1):65-9. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2007.08.002. Epub 2007 Oct 24.


Objective: Growing acceptance of new psychotropic drugs encouraged a survey of current use of antipsychotic drugs alone and in combinations, with comparisons with previous findings.

Method: Records from a random sample of McLean Hospital (Belmont, Mass) inpatients treated with an antipsychotic from March to May 2004 were reviewed for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, discharge diagnosis; all current psychotropic drug treatments; initial, peak, and final chlorpromazine-equivalent milligram-per-day dose of antipsychotics (APD); initial, peak, and final lithium-equivalent dose (milligram per day) of mood stabilizers (MS); weight change; clinical status at admission and discharge; and days of hospitalization.

Results: In the 305 inpatients sampled (n = 184 women, 60.3%), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, clinical conditions ranked as follows: major affective (n = 161, 52.8%), psychotic (n = 99, 32.5%), and other disorders (n = 45, 14.8%). Modern drugs comprised 92% of antipsychotic prescriptions, and quetiapine (usually at low doses) was most frequently prescribed. "Polytherapy" (simultaneous treatment with > or =2 psychotropic agents) at discharge was identified in 80% of antipsychotic-treated patients. Use of at least 2 antipsychotics (in 23% of cases) was associated with a 2.8-fold increase in total dose vs monotherapy (651 +/- 403 vs 232 +/- 205 mg/d). Total antipsychotic doses also were higher with mood stabilizer (most often divalproex) or sedative (usually high-potency benzodiazepine) cotreatment, use of older neuroleptics, psychotic-disorder diagnoses, and substance use comorbidity. Polytherapy was not associated with superior clinical improvement or shorter hospitalization but was associated with higher body weight.

Conclusions: Polytherapy involving antipsychotic drugs continues to increase despite limited empirical evidence for greater effectiveness or of safety of such combinations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Body Weight
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives