Switching antipsychotic medications to reduce adverse event burden in schizophrenia: establishing evidence-based practice

J Clin Psychiatry. 2013 Nov;74(11):1108-20. doi: 10.4088/JCP.12028ah1.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Aripiprazole
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Drug Substitution*
  • Dyskinesia, Drug-Induced / etiology
  • Dyskinesia, Drug-Induced / prevention & control
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood
  • Olanzapine
  • Patient Outcome Assessment
  • Piperazines / adverse effects
  • Piperazines / therapeutic use
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Quinolones / adverse effects
  • Quinolones / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Lipids
  • Piperazines
  • Quinolones
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Aripiprazole
  • Olanzapine