Prescription preferences in antipsychotics and attitude towards the pharmaceutical industry in Belgium

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ObjectivesThe number of antipsychotic prescriptions are increasing rapidly worldwide, a trend which is mainly driven by the steep rise in second-generation antipsychotic (SGA) prescriptions. However, the success of SGA, compared with the older first-generation antipsychotics (FGAs), cannot be explained by evidence. Several studies concluded on equal efficacy of FGA and SGA on positive, negative and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. Next to that, the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on prescription behaviour has drawn considerable interest. Therefore, the relationship between antipsychotic prescription patterns and exposure to information directly provided by pharmaceutical companies was studied.MethodsA cross-sectional online survey, addressing psychiatrists, general practitioners (GPs) and trainees in Flanders, was carried out. Respondents were questioned about their prescription behaviour, opinion about efficacy of SGA versus FGA and the nature and frequency of their contact with the pharmaceutical industry. Using Spearman's rank correlations and χ2 tests, the relationship between different variables and group differences were examined.ResultsPsychiatrists, GPs and trainees in Flanders clearly favour olanzapine and risperidone, followed by quetiapine and aripiprazole above all other agents. This behaviour is supported by the conviction that SGAs have superior efficacy and a more benign side effect profile, compared with FGA. Frequent contact with drug representatives is correlated with a preference of SGA over FGA. 41% of the respondents acknowledge to be influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, which is more than that previously reported.

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