Importance Short-term outcome studies of antipsychotic dose-reduction/discontinuation strategies in patients with remitted first-episode psychosis (FEP) showed higher relapse rates but no other disadvantages compared with maintenance treatment; however, long-term effects on recovery have not been studied before.
Objective To compare rates of recovery in patients with remitted FEP after 7 years of follow-up of a dose reduction/discontinuation (DR) vs maintenance treatment (MT) trial.
Design Seven-year follow-up of a 2-year open randomized clinical trial comparing MT and DR.
Setting One hundred twenty-eight patients participating in the original trial were recruited from 257 patients with FEP referred from October 2001 to December 2002 to 7 mental health care services in a 3.2 million–population catchment area. Of these, 111 patients refused to participate and 18 patients did not experience remission.
Participants After 7 years, 103 patients (80.5%) of 128 patients who were included in the original trial were located and consented to follow-up assessment.
Intervention After 6 months of remission, patients were randomly assigned to DR strategy or MT for 18 months. After the trial, treatment was at the discretion of the clinician.
Main Outcomes and Measures Primary outcome was rate of recovery, defined as meeting the criteria of symptomatic and functional remission. Determinants of recovery were examined using logistic regression analysis; the treatment strategy (MT or DR) was controlled for baseline parameters.
Results The DR patients experienced twice the recovery rate of the MT patients (40.4% vs 17.6%). Logistic regression showed an odds ratio of 3.49 (P = .01). Better DR recovery rates were related to higher functional remission rates in the DR group but were not related to symptomatic remission rates.
Conclusions and Relevance Dose reduction/discontinuation of antipsychotics during the early stages of remitted FEP shows superior long-term recovery rates compared with the rates achieved with MT. To our knowledge, this is the first study showing long-term gains of an early-course DR strategy in patients with remitted FEP. Additional studies are necessary before these results are incorporated into general practice.
Trial Registration isrctn.org Identifier: ISRCTN16228411.
July 2, 2013