The psychopharmacology algorithm project at the Harvard South Shore Program: an update on schizophrenia

Harv Rev Psychiatry. Jan-Feb 2013;21(1):18-40. doi: 10.1097/HRP.0b013e31827fd915.


This article is an update of the algorithm for schizophrenia from the Psychopharmacology Algorithm Project at the Harvard South Shore Program. A literature review was conducted focusing on new data since the last published version (1999-2001). The first-line treatment recommendation for new-onset schizophrenia is with amisulpride, aripiprazole, risperidone, or ziprasidone for four to six weeks. In some settings the trial could be shorter, considering that evidence of clear improvement with antipsychotics usually occurs within the first two weeks. If the trial of the first antipsychotic cannot be completed due to intolerance, try another until one of the four is tolerated and given an adequate trial. There should be evidence of bioavailability. If the response to this adequate trial is unsatisfactory, try a second monotherapy. If the response to this second adequate trial is also unsatisfactory, and if at least one of the first two trials was with risperidone, olanzapine, or a first-generation (typical) antipsychotic, then clozapine is recommended for the third trial. If neither trial was with any these three options, a third trial prior to clozapine should occur, using one of those three. If the response to monotherapy with clozapine (with dose adjusted by using plasma levels) is unsatisfactory, consider adding risperidone, lamotrigine, or ECT. Beyond that point, there is little solid evidence to support further psychopharmacological treatment choices, though we do review possible options.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Amisulpride
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / therapeutic use*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Aripiprazole
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Olanzapine
  • Piperazines / therapeutic use
  • Quinolones / therapeutic use
  • Risperidone / therapeutic use
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy*
  • Sulpiride / analogs & derivatives
  • Sulpiride / therapeutic use
  • Thiazoles / therapeutic use


  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Piperazines
  • Quinolones
  • Thiazoles
  • Benzodiazepines
  • ziprasidone
  • Sulpiride
  • Amisulpride
  • Aripiprazole
  • Risperidone
  • Olanzapine