Negative symptoms that do not improve following antipsychotic treatment represent a challenge for development of effective treatments. Few studies have been carried out so far, especially in first-episode schizophrenia patients, to clarify prevalence, correlates and impact of persistent negative symptoms (PNS) on short- and long-term outcome of the disease. All patients from EUFEST study for whom both baseline and 12-month assessments were available were included (N=345). PNS were defined as the presence of at least one negative symptom of moderate or higher severity, not confounded by depression or parkinsonism, at baseline and after 1 year of treatment. Patients with PNS were compared to those with at least one negative symptom of moderate or higher severity at the baseline, not persisting after 1 year, on demographic, clinical, neurocognitive, global functioning and quality of life measures. PNS not confounded by depression or parkinsonism were present in 6.7% of the sample. The symptom that more often persisted was blunted affect. Patients with PNS differed from those without PNS for a longer duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) and a more frequent discontinuation of study treatment; they also had a poorer psychopathological outcome and a worse global functioning after 1 year of treatment. The presence of PNS was associated to poorer improvement of all psychopathological dimensions and worse global functioning after 1 year of treatment. The longer DUP in subjects with PNS suggests that programs aimed at shortening DUP might reduce the prevalence of PNS and improve prognosis of schizophrenia.
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