Past and present progress in the pharmacologic treatment of schizophrenia

Author(s): Kane JM, Correll CU


Despite treatment advances over the past decades, schizophrenia remains one of the most severe psychiatric disorders that is associated with a chronic relapsing course and marked functional impairment in a substantial proportion of patients. In this article, a historical overview of the pharmacologic advances in the treatment of schizophrenia over the past 50 years is presented. This is followed by a review of the current developments in optimizing the treatment and outcomes in patients with schizophrenia. Methodological challenges, potential solutions, and areas of particular need for further research are highlighted. Although treatment goals of response, remission, and recovery have been defined more uniformly, a good "effectiveness" measure mapping onto functional outcomes is still lacking. Moreover, the field must advance in transferring measurement-based approaches from research to clinical practice. There is an ongoing debate regarding whether and which first- or second-generation antipsychotics should be used. However, especially when considering individual adverse effect profiles, the differentiation into first- and second-generation antipsychotics as unified classes cannot be upheld, and a more differentiated view and treatment selection are required. The desired, individualized treatment approach needs to consider current symptoms, comorbid conditions, past therapeutic response, and adverse effects, as well as patient choice and expectations. Acute and long-term goals and effects of medication treatment should be balanced. To date, clozapine is the only evidence-based treatment for refractory patients, and the role of antipsychotic polypharmacy and other augmentation strategies remains unclear, at best. To discover novel treatments with enhanced/broader efficacy and improved tolerability, and to enable personalized treatment, the mechanisms underlying illness development and progression, symptomatic improvement, and side effect development need to be elucidated.

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