Objective: Treatment guidelines suggest distinctive medication strategies for first-episode and multiepisode patients with schizophrenia. To assess the extent to which community clinicians adjust their usual treatment regimens for first-episode patients, the authors examined prescription patterns and factors associated with prescription choice in a national cohort of early-phase patients.
Method: Prescription data at study entry were obtained from 404 participants in the Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode Project's Early Treatment Program (RAISE-ETP), a nationwide multisite effectiveness study for patients with first-episode schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Treatment with antipsychotics did not exceed 6 months at study entry.
Results: The authors identified 159 patients (39.4% of the sample) who might benefit from changes in their psychotropic prescriptions. Of these, 8.8% received prescriptions for recommended antipsychotics at higher than recommended dosages; 32.1% received prescriptions for olanzapine (often at high dosages), 23.3% for more than one antipsychotic, 36.5% for an antipsychotic and also an antidepressant without a clear indication, 10.1% for psychotropic medications without an antipsychotic, and 1.2% for stimulants. Multivariate analysis showed evidence for sex, age, and insurance status effects on prescription practices. Racial and ethnic effects consistent with effects reported in previous studies of multiepisode patients were found in univariate analyses. Despite some regional variations in prescription practices, no region consistently had different practices from the others. Diagnosis had limited and inconsistent effects.
Conclusions: Besides prescriber education, policy makers may need to consider not only patient factors but also service delivery factors in efforts to improve prescription practices for first-episode schizophrenia patients.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01321177.