Pharmacological treatment of acute agitation associated with psychotic and bipolar disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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We used systematic review methodology to identify and evaluate short-term pharmacological interventions for agitation associated with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.


We searched electronic databases for randomised controlled trials involving comparisons between current treatments for agitation, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics and placebo. The patient population was adults with agitation associated with psychotic or bipolar disorder treated in specialist mental health services. The outcome of interest was change in agitation measured by accepted standard scales. Paired meta-analyses and network meta-analyses are presented.


Seventeen randomised controlled trials were identified (n = 3841). Treatments included haloperidol, olanzapine, aripiprazole, risperidone and lorazepam. The primary outcome was change in Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale Excited Component scores. Pair-wise comparisons suggest that after 60 min, olanzapine is superior to haloperidol; no other treatment was more effective than any other. At 120 min, loxapine 10 mg is more effective than loxapine 5 mg, and olanzapine is more effective than lorazepam. In the network meta-analyses, no treatment was superior to any other.


Because of limitations of available research, firm conclusions could not be drawn regarding the efficacy and safety of any identified intervention. Based on our results, there is no evidence that one drug is more effective or preferred over any other and treatment decisions could be made based on individual patient needs or costs. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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