A risk-benefit assessment of sulpiride in the treatment of schizophrenia

Drug Saf. 1996 May;14(5):288-98. doi: 10.2165/00002018-199614050-00003.


Sulpiride is a substituted benzamide with a selective action on receptors of the dopamine D2-like family, and clinical and pharmacological data suggest that it could be considered to be an atypical antipsychotic. Sulpiride penetrates the blood-brain barrier poorly because of its low lipid solubility. It is mainly excreted unchanged in the urine, and accumulation of the drug could occur in patients with renal dysfunction and possibly in elderly patients with declining glomerular filtration rate. At low dosages (50 to 150 mg/day), sulpiride produces a disinhibiting and antidepressant effect, which is probably related to its action on D2 presynaptic autoreceptors, thus facilitating dopaminergic neurotransmission. Data have confirmed the efficacy of sulpiride in patients with acute or chronic schizophrenia during both short and long term treatment, but long term, placebo-controlled trials are still lacking. It is still doubtful whether sulpiride is more effective than typical antipsychotics for the treatment of negative symptoms. Data from clinical studies are controversial; the majority of authors indicate that sulpiride produces a better recovery rate from negative than from positive symptoms at low doses, but it shows a similar efficacy either on negative and positive symptoms at higher doses. The safety profile of sulpiride is similar to that of typical antipsychotics, although the frequency of adverse effects seems to be globally lower. Extrapyramidal reactions appear generally to be mild. Autonomic effects occur less frequently with sulpiride than with typical antipsychotics, showing no clinically relevant influence on cardiovascular parameters and, on the whole, good tolerability in elderly patients. Sulpiride is known to induce prolactin elevation in both serum and CSF, which may be associated with impotence in men and diminished gonadal function in women; these effects appear to be dosage-dependent. Sulpiride can be considered to be an atypical antipsychotic, considering its action on negative, defective symptoms, its partial activity against positive symptoms, and its low incidence of extrapyramidal adverse effects. Sulpiride could find its specific therapeutic role in elderly patients with schizophrenia, as it shows a good margin of safety between therapeutic dosages and toxic concentrations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy*
  • Sulpiride / adverse effects*
  • Sulpiride / pharmacokinetics
  • Sulpiride / therapeutic use*


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Sulpiride