Antipsychotic Treatment Experiences of People with Schizophrenia: Patient Perspectives from an Online Survey

Patient Prefer Adherence. 2020 Oct 28;14:2043-2054. doi: 10.2147/PPA.S270020. eCollection 2020.


Background: This survey examined the experiences of people living with schizophrenia who have used oral antipsychotics (APs).

Methods: Adults with self-reported physician-diagnosed schizophrenia (N=200), who were members of an online research participation panel and reported taking one or more oral APs within the last year, completed a cross-sectional online survey that focused on direct report of their experiences regarding APs (eg, symptoms, side effects, adherence). Descriptive analyses were conducted for the total survey sample and for subgroups defined a priori by experience with specific, prevalent side effects.

Results: The mean age of the sample was 41.9 (SD=11.0) years, 50% of participants were female, and 32% were nonwhite. Overall ratings were positive for medication effectiveness and convenience but negative for side effects. While most participants reported that APs improved schizophrenia symptoms (92%), 27% reported APs as having done "more harm than good." Almost all participants (98%) reported experiencing side effects of APs, with the most common being anxiety (88%), feeling drowsy/tired (86%), and trouble concentrating (85%). Side effects frequently cited as either "extremely" or "very" bothersome were weight gain (56%), sexual dysfunction (55%), and trouble concentrating (54%). Over 80% reported that side effects had negatively impacted their work and social functioning (eg, social activities or family/romantic relationships). Since initiating treatment, 56% of respondents had stopped taking APs at some point (65% of these due to side effects). Side effects commonly reported as having led to stopping AP treatment were "feeling like a 'zombie'" (22%), feeling drowsy/tired (21%), and weight gain (20%).

Conclusion: Most participants reported improvements in schizophrenia symptoms associated with the use of APs. However, most participants also reported experiencing numerous bothersome side effects that negatively impacted their work, social functioning, and treatment adherence. Results highlight the unmet need for new APs with favorable benefit-risk profiles.

Keywords: adherence; antipsychotics; efficacy; preference; schizophrenia; side effects.

Grant support

This research was funded by Alkermes, Inc. The study sponsor was involved in research design, data interpretation, and drafting of the article.