Clozapine Use in a Cohort of First-Episode Psychosis

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For approximately one third of individuals treated for psychosis or schizophrenia, antipsychotic medications will have little or no therapeutic benefit. Clozapine remains the sole medication approved for treatment-resistant schizophrenia, and studies have demonstrated its superior efficacy in reducing psychotic symptoms.


Data were collected from the medical records of people who originally presented with a first-episode psychosis between 1995 and 1999 (N = 171). Data were obtained from first presentation up to December 31, 2013 or until the patient was discharged or transferred. Information on service use and physical health was gathered using a data collection template designed specifically for this audit.


Twenty-eight (16.3%) of the cohort were prescribed clozapine. Data were available for 24 individuals. Of this clozapine subsample, the mean age at baseline was 23.11 (SD = 4.58); 82.14% (n = 23) were male; and 82.14% (n = 23) had a baseline diagnosis of schizophrenia. The mean time to first trial of clozapine was 6.7 years. The mean number of antipsychotics prescribed before clozapine trial was 4.85. After the initiation of clozapine, the mean number of hospital admissions reduced from 6.04 per year to 0.88 per year.


Nearly 1 in 5 of the original cohort was considered to have a suboptimal response to trials of antipsychotic medication. The use of clozapine for treatment-resistant schizophrenia is underutilized, and better understanding of the barriers to prescribing clozapine is necessary given the implications for patient's quality of life and hospital admission rates. Physical health data further emphasizes the importance of physical health monitoring in this vulnerable population.

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