Cognitive effects of antipsychotic dosage and polypharmacy: a study with the BACS in patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder

J Psychopharmacol. 2010 Jul;24(7):1037-44. doi: 10.1177/0269881108100777. Epub 2009 Jan 22.


Antipsychotic polypharmacy and high doses have been associated with poorer outcome, longer hospital stays, and increased side effects. The present naturalistic study assessed the cognitive effects of antipsychotics in 56 patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, using the Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia (BACS). Antipsychotic daily dose (ADD) was expressed as mg risperidone equivalents/day (RIS eq), using a model based on drug doses from the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials in Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) study for second generation antipsychotics (SGA) and chlorpromazine equivalents for first generation antipsychotics (FGA), with a 1/1 equivalence between haloperidol and risperidone. Increasing age was associated with polypharmacy, FGA prescription and decreasing BACS score. FGA prescription, in turn, predicted a poorer cognitive functioning, independently of age, PANSS subscores and ADD. ADD was associated with decreasing cognitive scores, an effect that remained significant after controlling for age, PANSS or polypharmacy. The detrimental cognitive effects of polypharmacy, in turn, appeared to be mediated by ADD. Different methods of data fitting suggested that ADD above 5-6 mg RIS eq/day were associated with lower BACS scores. Overall, these results show that increasing antipsychotic daily dose is associated with poorer cognitive functioning at doses lower than previously thought, independently of the number of antipsychotic drugs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Polypharmacy*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales*
  • Psychotic Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology*
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*


  • Antipsychotic Agents