The impact on functioning of second-generation antipsychotic medication side effects for patients with schizophrenia: a worldwide, cross-sectional, web-based survey

Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2020 Jul 13;19:42. doi: 10.1186/s12991-020-00292-5. eCollection 2020.


Background: It is well established that the different antipsychotics used for schizophrenia symptoms differ substantially in their side effects. However, relatively little is known about the impact of these side effects on functioning from the patient's perspective. We aimed to understand how key side effects of second-generation antipsychotics impact the functioning and quality of life (QoL) of patients with schizophrenia.

Methods: This is a cross-sectional, web-based survey of patient-reported side effect burden of antipsychotic drugs in adults with schizophrenia. The survey was deployed in the United States, Canada, Australia, Spain, Italy, Norway, and Denmark. It included sociodemographic and clinical questions, the Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire Short Form (Q-LES-Q-SF), and the Glasgow Antipsychotic Side-Effect Scale (GASS). Eight pre-defined key side effects classified as activating ("Shaky hands or arms," "Restlessness," and "Difficulty sleeping"), sedating ("Sleepy during the day", "Feeling drugged or like a zombie," and "Feeling dizzy/Fainted") or other side effects ("Problems enjoying sex" and "Gaining weight"), and additional questions related to impacts on function and quality of life were asked.

Results: In total, 435 participants (mean age: 38 years, 53.8% female) were included. The total Q-LES-Q-SF score indicated overall medium satisfaction with their quality of life (score of 44.3; possible range 14-70). The most prevalent side effects were "Sleepy during the day" (83.2%), "Difficulty sleeping" (74.7%), "Dry mouth" (63.9%), "Problems enjoying sex" (53.4%) and "Gaining weight" (52.4%). Women reported the side effects of "Sleepy during the day", "Problems enjoying sex" and "Gaining weight" more frequently than men. Key side effects impacted physical, social, occupational and psychological aspects of functioning. Patients with key side effects often felt frustrated by their experiences. Total Q-LES-Q-SF score showed a significant inverse correlation with the score of pre-defined groups of side effects indicating worse QoL in association with more severe key side effects in these patients.

Conclusion: Stable patients with schizophrenia taking second-generation antipsychotics live with many side effects, including activating and sedating side effects, sexual side effects, and weight gain. Presence of these side effects is associated with substantial impacts across all aspects of daily functioning and lower quality of life and satisfaction.

Keywords: Functioning; Impacts; Medication; Patient-centered; Schizophrenia; Second-generation antipsychotics; Side effects; Web survey.