Long-acting injectable antipsychotics (LAIs) are among the most effective treatments in psychiatry, yet they remain underutilized in clinical practice. Although LAIs are typically used to maintain treatment adherence in patients with chronic schizophrenia, recent research has suggested that they may also provide an effective treatment strategy for patients with early-phase or first-episode disease. In October 2015, a group of 8 experts on the management of schizophrenia and LAIs met to evaluate the evidence surrounding the efficacy, safety, and cost-effectiveness of LAIs and to develop practical recommendations regarding the clinical use, education, and unmet needs related to LAIs. Participants were also asked to rate the importance of several patient characteristics when choosing an LAI versus an oral antipsychotic, from the perspectives of 4 different stakeholder groups: patients, health care professionals, families, and payers. The evidence review demonstrated that LAIs are superior to placebo for acute and maintenance treatment of schizophrenia and, in general, appear to be similar to one another in terms of schizophrenia relapse prevention. Study design impacts the demonstrated efficacy of LAIs versus oral antipsychotics, but recent database and randomized controlled studies favor the use of LAIs in early-phase schizophrenia patients. LAIs vary considerably in their propensity to cause certain adverse effects, including weight gain, metabolic effects, extrapyramidal symptoms, and prolactin elevation, and these differences can be used to help guide LAI selection. Some studies, but not all, have demonstrated significant reductions in health care utilization or overall costs with LAIs. The expert panel identified several barriers to LAI use in current practice, including clinician lack of knowledge, negative attitudes about LAIs, and resource and cost issues. The participants also identified a number of additional factors that should be considered when weighing the use of LAI therapy, including medication adherence, relapse risk and severity, cognitive impairment, ease of use, substance misuse, access and cost, stigma, social support, patient autonomy, control over medication dosing, fear of needles, and the potential for patient harm due to relapses and associated loss of functioning. This evidence review, discussion, and summary recommendations may help clinicians, patients, families, payers, and other stakeholders to better characterize the role of LAIs in the treatment of schizophrenia.
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