Antipsychotic dose equivalents and dose-years: a standardized method for comparing exposure to different drugs

Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Feb 1;67(3):255-62. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.08.040. Epub 2009 Nov 7.


Background: A standardized quantitative method for comparing dosages of different drugs is a useful tool for designing clinical trials and for examining the effects of long-term medication side effects such as tardive dyskinesia. Such a method requires establishing dose equivalents. An expert consensus group has published charts of equivalent doses for various antipsychotic medications for first- and second-generation medications. These charts were used in this study.

Methods: Regression was used to compare each drug in the experts' charts to chlorpromazine and haloperidol and to create formulas for each relationship. The formulas were solved for chlorpromazine 100 mg and haloperidol 2 mg to derive new chlorpromazine and haloperidol equivalents. The formulas were incorporated into our definition of dose-years such that 100 mg/day of chlorpromazine equivalent or 2 mg/day of haloperidol equivalent taken for 1 year is equal to one dose-year.

Results: All comparisons to chlorpromazine and haloperidol were highly linear with R(2) values greater than .9. A power transformation further improved linearity.

Conclusions: By deriving a unique formula that converts doses to chlorpromazine or haloperidol equivalents, we can compare otherwise dissimilar drugs. These equivalents can be multiplied by the time an individual has been on a given dose to derive a cumulative value measured in dose-years in the form of (chlorpromazine equivalent in mg) x (time on dose measured in years). After each dose has been converted to dose-years, the results can be summed to provide a cumulative quantitative measure of lifetime exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chlorpromazine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Chlorpromazine / therapeutic use
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Haloperidol / pharmacokinetics*
  • Haloperidol / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Therapeutic Equivalency
  • Time Factors


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Haloperidol
  • Chlorpromazine