NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 3, 2006

Schizophrenia patients do as well, or perhaps even better, on older psychiatric drugs compared with newer and far costlier medications, according to a study published yesterday that overturns conventional wisdom about antipsychotic drugs, which cost the United States $10 billion a year.

The results are causing consternation.  The researchers who conducted the trial were so certain they would find exactly the opposite that they went back to make sure the research data had not been recorded backward:

  • The study, funded by the British government, is the first to compare treatment results from a broad range of older antipsychotic drugs against results from newer ones.
  • The study was requested by Britain's National Health Service to determine whether the newer drugs -- which can cost 10 times as much as the older ones -- are worth the difference in price.
  • There has been a surge in prescriptions of the newer antipsychotic drugs in recent years, including among children.

The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, is likely to add to a growing debate about prescribing patterns of antipsychotic drugs.  A U.S. government study last year found that one of the older drugs did as well as newer ones, but at the time, many American psychiatrists warned against concluding that all the older drugs were as good.

Source: Shankar Vedantam, "In Antipsychotics, Newer Isn't Better; Drug Find Shocks Researchers," Washington Post, October 3, 2006; based upon: Peter B. Jones et al., "Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effect on Quality of Life of Second- vs First-Generation Antipsychotic Drugs in Schizophrenia; Cost Utility of the Latest Antipsychotic Drugs in Schizophrenia Study," Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol. 63 No. 10, October 2006.

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