Clinical and economic ramifications of switching antipsychotics in the treatment of schizophrenia

BMC Psychiatry. 2009 Sep 2;9:54. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-9-54.


Background: Switching between antipsychotic medications is common in the treatment of schizophrenia. However, data on clinical and economic outcomes from antipsychotic switching, in particular acute care service use, is fairly limited. The goal of this research was to assess the clinical and economic ramifications of switching antipsychotics during outpatient management of schizophrenia.

Methods: Data from a 1-year randomized, open-label cost-effectiveness study involving typical and atypical antipsychotics were assessed. The study protocol permitted switching of antipsychotics when clinically warranted. The risk of crisis-related events, use of acute-care services, and the time to the initial use of such services were determined in outpatients who switched antipsychotics compared with those who continued with their initial medications. Health care resource utilization data were abstracted from medical records and other sources (e.g., patient self-report), and direct costs were estimated using previously published benchmarks.

Results: Almost one-third of patients (29.3%) underwent a switch from their initial antipsychotic agent, with an average duration of 100 days before such treatment alterations. Compared with their counterparts who remained on their initial therapies, individuals who switched antipsychotics experienced a significantly higher risk of acute-care services, including hospitalization (p = .013) and crisis services (p = .011). Patients undergoing medication switches also used acute-care services significantly sooner (p = .004) and accrued an additional $3,000 (a 25% increase) in annual total health care costs per patient, most of which was due to acute-care expenditures.

Conclusion: Switching antipsychotic medications was found to be associated with considerably poorer clinical and economic outcomes, as reflected by, more frequent and more rapid use of acute-care services compared with persons remaining on their initial treatments.

Trial registration: Trial ID 2325 in (also accessible via

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care / economics
  • Antipsychotic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antipsychotic Agents / economics*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Crisis Intervention / economics
  • Crisis Intervention / methods
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / economics
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitalization / economics
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy*
  • Schizophrenia / economics*


  • Antipsychotic Agents