In a new study, researchers found some drug combinations may be more effective than others to treat schizophrenia.
Patients with schizophrenia are often treated with more than one type of psychiatric medication.
The research was conducted by Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
Previous studies have shown that Antipsychotic drugs are usually the first line of treatment for individuals with schizophrenia.
However, these drugs often cannot control symptoms adequately on their own.
So doctors often prescribe additional psychiatric medications, such as another antipsychotic, an antidepressant, a benzodiazepine, or a mood stabilizer to help control the symptoms.
But it was unknown how different psychiatric drug combinations affect people with schizophrenia.
In the current study, the team examined Medicaid records of 81,921 adults with schizophrenia.
These people had been taking only an antipsychotic drug for at least 3 months before starting either an antidepressant, benzodiazepine, mood stabilizer, or another antipsychotic drug.
The researchers found people with schizophrenia who added an antidepressant were less likely to land in the ER or hospital for a mental health issue than those who started another antipsychotic or a benzodiazepine.
In addition, antidepressants reduced the risk of hospitalization by 16% compared to antipsychotics and by 22% compared to benzodiazepines.
For ER visits, antidepressants reduced the risk by 8% compared to antipsychotics and by 18% compared to benzodiazepines.
The findings suggest that benzodiazepine use should be limited. However, combining antidepressants with antipsychotic drugs may have benefits.
The team hopes that clinicians will find the results believable and that they will lead to practice changes and improved patient outcomes.
The lead author of the study is T. Scott Stroup, MD, MPH, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The study is published in JAMA Psychiatry.
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Further reading: JAMA Psychiatry.