The hopeful sign is that patients taking the newer drugs stayed on them longer, Khan said.
"Overall, we should be encouraged that if we give the patients the right drug, that in 60 to 70 percent of the cases, they still stay on the medication," Khan said. "We should not be so pessimistic, as earlier studies suggested, that we cannot treat schizophrenia because only 30 percent of the patients stayed on the drug."
Dr. Robert A Rosenheck, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine and author of an accompanying editorial in the journal, said the only way to test whether patients prefer the newer drugs to the older ones is to have an objective trial in which patients and doctors don't know who's getting which drug.
"In terms of the main outcome of how long patients stayed on their drugs, the study showed a benefit for the newer drugs," he said. But, since the doctors knew which drugs were being given, the study results likely reflected the doctors' opinions of the drugs, he added.
The study began in 2002, Rosenheck noted, when there was a lot of enthusiasm for these new drugs. "The assumption of many doctors was, 'I want my patients on newer drugs as soon as possible,' " he said.
"The only way you get an objective assessment is by doing a study in which you can be sure neither the patient nor the physician knows which drug it is. So, they are just judging by the clinical outcomes. That's the standard for evaluating drugs," Rosenheck said.
For more on schizophrenia, visit the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
SOURCES: Rene Kahn, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, University Medical Centre, Utrecht, the N
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