Newer atypical antipsychotic medication versus clozapine for schizophrenia

Synopsis pending.

Authors' conclusions: 

The equal effectiveness and tolerability of new atypical drugs in comparison with clozapine is not yet demonstrated. Lack of statistical power to determine the comparative efficacy and effectiveness of newer atypical drugs makes it difficult to judge whether newer drugs are more effective, less effective or equivalent. Trials of sufficient power, with longer duration, measuring clinically important outcomes, are needed to assess the true comparative clinical effectiveness, tolerability and cost effectiveness of newer drugs in relation to clozapine.

Read the full abstract...

Clozapine is an atypical antipsychotic drug, which is claimed to have superior efficacy and to cause fewer movement disorders. However, clozapine carries a significant risk of serious blood disorders. Newer atypical antipsychotics are safer alternatives that might share the benefits of clozapine. It is thus of interest to compare the effectiveness of newer atypical antipsychotics with the effectiveness of clozapine.


To evaluate the clinical effects of newer atypical antipsychotic drugs in comparison to clozapine for schizophrenia.

Search strategy: 

Publications in all languages were searched from the following databases: Biological Abstracts/BIOSIS (1980-1999), The Cochrane Schizophrenia Group's Register of Trials (1998), The Cochrane Library CENTRAL Register (Issue 4, 1999), EMBASE (1980-1998), MEDLINE (1966-1999), LILACS/CD-ROM (1998), and PsycLIT/PsycINFO (1974-1999). Trials were also sought from recent conference proceedings and reference lists of included papers. Authors of recent trials and the manufacturers of clozapine, iloperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine, remoxipride, risperidone, sertindole, ziprasidone and zotepine were contacted.

Selection criteria: 

All randomised controlled trials comparing clozapine with newer atypical antipsychotic drugs were included by independent assessment by two reviewers.

Data collection and analysis: 

Data were extracted independently by two reviewers. Relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) of homogenous dichotomous data were calculated. A random effects model was used for heterogeneous dichotomous data. Where possible the number needed to treat (NNT) statistic with 95%CI were also calculated. Weighted or standardised means were calculated for continuous data. Due to the small number of included studies, sensitivity analyses or funnel plot statistics were not undertaken for this version of the review.

Main results: 

The current review includes eight studies (22 papers), of which three studies are 4-6 weeks in duration and only one study is of more than 12 weeks' duration.

Newer atypical drugs seemed to be broadly similar to clozapine using a clinical global index or trialists' definitions of improvement, but this result was obtained from a relatively small number of studies. Due to the small number of studies and patients, wide confidence intervals were seen when their effectiveness as measured by symptom rating scales was compared. Social functioning was better in patients on newer atypical medication (risperidone) than in those on clozapine, but this finding is based on a single underpowered trial and has to be interpreted with caution.

Clozapine and newer atypical drugs showed their adverse effect profile to be dissimilar: while clozapine produced more fatigue, hypersalivation, nausea, and orthostatic dizziness, new atypical drugs, with the exception of olanzapine, produced more extrapyramidal symptoms.

The impact of these drugs and their effects on patients' day-to-day quality of life, service use, hospital admission, and pharmacoeconomics was not measured.