Understanding the physical harm of taking more than one antipsychotic drug for people with schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness which affects about 1 per cent of people. The most common treatment for schizophrenia is a type of drug called an antipsychotic. Many patients are prescribed more than one at a time, even though experts recommend that only one should be taken at a time. There is also no clear evidence that taking more than one antipsychotic drug at a time is more effective.
People with schizophrenia die about 20 years earlier than those without a serious mental illness. This is partly because they are more likely to have serious health problems such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. All of these increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. People may be more likely to have these problems if they take more than one antipsychotic over a long time, although we don’t have firm evidence about this.
In this study, we will look at information that’s routinely collected at GP surgeries for a large group of middle-aged people with schizophrenia, to find out how many antipsychotic drugs they are prescribed. We will then follow them for up to 15 years to find out whether they are diagnosed with one of these serious health problems.
We want to find out whether taking more than one antipsychotic drug increases the chance of having these serious physical health problems. If people who take more than one antipsychotic are more likely to have one of these illnesses, this may indicate that taking two or more of these drugs in the long-term is harmful. If so, it would be vital to ensure that people aren’t prescribed more than one antipsychotic drug.
We will also try to find out whether the health risks are due to taking higher doses of these drugs overall, or whether certain combinations of drugs are particularly harmful.
This project will help health professionals make safe prescribing decisions for people with schizophrenia. We hope this will lead to better overall health for people with schizophrenia, reducing the life expectancy inequalities that they face.