Introduction: Aripiprazole has been associated with a low prevalence of metabolic side effects as compared to other second generation antipsychotic (SGA) medications mostly in patients with long standing illness. The purpose of the present study was to assess specifically the effectiveness and safety of aripiprazole as a first choice for antipsychotic therapy for young patients presenting with a previously untreated first episode of a psychotic disorder (FEP).
Methods: Seventy-three patients presenting with a FEP and with minimal prior exposure to antipsychotic medications were recruited to be part of an open label naturalistic outcome study using aripiprazole as the first choice of antipsychotic medication. Data on positive, negative and total symptom severity including general psychopathological symptoms, level of functioning and metabolic indices were collected prospectively over a one-year period.
Results: As compared to baseline, patients treated with aripiprazole (mean dose 9.6mg) improved significantly on measures of positive (p<0.001), negative (p<0.001) and total severity-general psychopathology symptoms (p<0.001) and level of functioning (p<0.001). Seventy two percent of the participants achieved positive symptom remission and 50% achieved total remission (positive and negative) at one year of follow up. Unlike reports on patients with longer standing illness, significant weight gain (p<0.001) was observed, with 44% of participants experiencing >7% increase in body weight.
Conclusion: FEP patients starting treatment with aripiprazole improved on symptoms and social and occupational functioning. Aripiprazole was well tolerated except for a significant weight gain.
Keywords: Aripiprazole; First episode psychosis; Functioning; Naturalistic; Weight.
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