Antipsychotic medications can also be expensive, the authors noted. In 2010, about $18.5 billion was spent worldwide on antipsychotic drugs, according to a journal news release.
Estrada agreed that the drugs have their drawbacks. "The cost and adverse effects associated with antipsychotics remain major impediments to achieving more successful treatment of schizophrenia," he said. "Further work needs to be done to develop more effective treatments for schizophrenia that are better-tolerated and thus likely to improve patients' adherence to taking these medications."
Still, the take-home message from the new study is clear, the study authors said.
"Antipsychotic maintenance treatment substantially reduces relapse risk in all patients with schizophrenia for up to 2 years of follow-up," Stefan Leucht from the Technical University of Munich, and colleagues, said in a journal news release "The effect was robust in important subgroups such as patients who had only one episode, those in remission," he added.
Benefits seemed to occur regardless of whether patients took older or newer forms of antipsychotic drugs, Leucht added. However, for many patients "the drugs seemed to lose their effectiveness with time," he said.
Another expert said that, while the medications are not perfect, they have eased the suffering of many patients.
"This study confirms clinical observations going back to the early 1950s -- that is, antipsychotic drugs are effective in reducing the symptoms associated with schizophrenia. The decreased number of patients in long-term mental health facilities, such as state mental hospitals, is a testimonial to this," said Dr. Norman Sussman, a psychiatrist at NYU Langone Medical Center and professor at the NYU School of Medicine in New York City.
"Hopefully, even better treatments will emerge in the near future that have fewer adverse effects and more robu
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