Background: To date, no study has investigated how prescription patterns change over time in Chinese patients with schizophrenia. This study aimed to determine psychotropic drug prescription patterns and the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for schizophrenia and their changes over time in a large psychiatric institution in Beijing, China.
Methods: The case notes of inpatients with schizophrenia were scrutinized to identify psychotropic drug prescription patterns and the use of ECT on November 10, 1999 and the same calendar day in 2008 and to compare the two surveys.
Results: In 1999, 45.1% of inpatients with schizophrenia were on first-generation antipsychotic drugs (FGA), while 52.9% were on second-generation antipsychotic drugs (SGA). In 2008, the percentage of patients on FGAs decreased to 15.1%, while those on SGAs increased to 77.2%. The proportion of schizophrenia patients on mood stabilizers and antidepressants rose from 3.3% and 4.3% in 1999 to 18% and 9.5% by 2008, respectively. Use of ECT grew from 0.5% in 1999 to 5.6% by 2008. The proportion of schizophrenia patients not prescribed antipsychotic drugs changed from 5.6% in 1999 to 13.7% in 2008.
Conclusions: The prescription pattern of psychotropic drugs changes considerably over time, even in the same clinical setting. Mental health professionals need to keep up with changes in the prescription patterns of psychotropic drugs in order to serve their patients at the best possible level. The socio-economic reasons for not prescribing antipsychotic drugs to schizophrenia patients should be further explored.