WEDNESDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- People with schizophrenia are likely to live longer if they take their antipsychotic drugs on schedule, avoid extremely high doses and have regular visits with a mental-health professional, according to a new study.
It's long been known that adhering to a drug regimen reduces the number of the delusions and hallucinations experienced by schizophrenia patients, but there have been concerns that known physical side effects of the medications -- such as diabetes and heart disease -- might increase the risk of death.
In this study, researchers analyzed data collected from 1994 to 2004 on more than 2,100 adult schizophrenia patients in Maryland. The most common cause of death was cardiovascular disease, which was responsible for 28 percent of patient deaths. Unintended harm, in which researchers included suicide, caused 8 percent of patient deaths during the study period.
Patients with a 90 percent or better compliance with their antipsychotic medication regimen had a 25 percent lower risk of death than those with a compliance of less than 10 percent.
The researchers also found that each additional visit per year to a mental-health professional was associated with a 5 percent reduction in overall death risk.
Although sticking with an antipsychotic drug regimen reduced the risk of death, the researchers found that patients who took high doses of first-generation antipsychotics daily had an 88 percent increased risk of death.
First-generation antipsychotics have been linked with heart disease risks, and among the patients who died in the study while taking larger doses, 53 percent died of cardiovascular disease.
"These drugs work very well, but there is clearly a point of diminishing returns. You rarely need to be on extremely high doses," study leader Bernadette Cullen, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University Scho
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