The purpose of this project was to provide evidence-based guidance concerning when and how it is appropriate to undertake elective changes in antipsychotic medications in order to reduce adverse effects, with a focus on those adverse effects associated with increased long-term health risks. This project extends the results of the National Institute of Mental Health-funded 2009 Schizophrenia Patient Outcomes Research Team (PORT) psychopharmacologic treatment recommendations. The authors reviewed the literature on switching antipsychotics, focusing on randomized controlled trials published since the 2009 Schizophrenia PORT. The studies reviewed support a recommendation that an elective switch from higher to lower metabolic risk antipsychotics can produce weight and lipid benefits without significant risk of clinical deterioration. Evidence also suggests that certain antipsychotic switches may improve other adverse effects, including extrapyramidal symptoms and prolactin elevation. In deciding to make an elective change of antipsychotic medication, it is important to conduct a careful risk/benefit assessment with the patient. Before initiating a switch, patients should be educated about what to expect during the process. Studies also support gradual discontinuation of the current medication in order to minimize problems early in the switching process.
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