Depot fluspirilene for schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious, chronic and relapsing mental illness with a worldwide lifetime prevalence of about one percent. Antipsychotic drugs are the mainstay of treatment for schizophrenia, but compliance with medication is often poor due to the adverse effects profile of the drugs and/or the patient's beliefs about their illness. Non-compliance with medication is a major cause of relapse with significant personal, social and economic costs.

Depot antipsychotics were developed in the 1960's specifically to promote treatment compliance and gave rise to extensive use of depots as a means of long-term maintenance treatment. Depot antipsychotics are administered intramuscularly and the drug is released into the body slowly over an extended period of time. These antipsychotics need to be injected only once every 2-4 weeks.

Fluspirilene is a relatively long-acting injectable depot antipsychotic drug used for schizophrenia. We updated the original systematic review (David 1999) on Depot fluspirilene for schizophrenia with five additional studies. Twelve randomised trials are included. Study sizes are small and most were of short term duration. This cannot be very informative for a drug that is meant for long-term maintenance treatment. However, from the studies we were able to include, fluspirilene decanoate does not differ greatly from other depot antipsychotics (fluphenazine decanoate, fluphenazine enathate, perphenazine onanthat, pipotiazine undecylenate) with respect to treatment efficacy, response or tolerability. Outcomes suggest that fluspirilene does not differ significantly from oral antipsychotics or in different weekly regimens, although much cannot be inferred because of the shortage of trials.

Authors' conclusions: 

Participant numbers in each comparison were small and we found no clear differences between fluspirilene and oral medication or other depots. The choice of whether to use fluspirilene as a depot medication and whether it has advantages over other depots cannot, at present, be informed by trial-derived data. Well-conducted and reported randomised trials are still needed to inform practice.

Read the full abstract...

Antipsychotic drugs are the mainstay treatment for schizophrenia and similar psychotic disorders. Long-acting depot injections of drugs such as fluspirilene are extensively used as a means of long-term maintenance treatment.


To review the effects of depot fluspirilene versus placebo, oral anti-psychotics and other depot antipsychotic preparations for people with schizophrenia in terms of clinical, social and economic outcomes.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group's Register (September 2005), inspected references of all identified studies, and contacted relevant pharmaceutical companies.

Selection criteria: 

We included all relevant randomised trials focusing on people with schizophrenia where depot fluspirilene, oral anti-psychotics, other depot preparations, or placebo were compared. Outcomes such as death, clinically significant change in global function, mental state, relapse, hospital admission, adverse effects and acceptability of treatment were sought.

Data collection and analysis: 

Studies were reliably selected, quality rated and data extracted. For dichotomous data, we calculated relative risk (RR) with the 95% confidence intervals (CI). Where possible, the number needed to treat statistic (NNT) was calculated. Analysis was by intention-to-treat. We summated normal continuous data using the weighted mean difference (WMD). We presented scale data only for those tools that had attained pre-specified levels of quality.

Main results: 

We included twelve randomised studies in this update of which five are additional studies. One trial compared fluspirilene and placebo and did not report important differences in the global improvement (n=60, 1 RCT, RR "no important improvement "0.97 CI 0.9 to 1.1). Though movement disorders (n=60, 1 RCT, RR 31.0 CI 1.9 to 495.6, NNH 4) were found only in the fluspirilene group, there were no convincing data showing the advantage of oral chlorpromazine or other depot antipsychotics over fluspirilene decanoate. We found no difference between depot fluspirilene and other oral antipsychotics with regard to relapses or to the number of people leaving the study early. Global state data (CGI) were not significantly different, in the short term when comparing fluspirilene with other depots (n=90, 2 RCTs, RR "no important improvement" 0.80 CI 0.2 to 2.8). No significant difference were apparent between fluspirilene and other depots with respect to the number of people leaving the trial early (n=83, 2 RCTs, RR 0.55 CI 0.1 to 2.3) or relapse rates (n=109, 3 RCTs, RR 0.55 CI 0.1 to 2.3). Extrapyramidal adverse effects were significantly less prevalent in the fluspirilene groups (n=164, 4 RCTs, RR 0.50 CI 0.3 to 0.8, NNH 5). Other adverse effects were not significantly different. Attrition in the one comparison between fluspirilene in weekly versus biweekly administration (n=34, RR 3.00 CI 0.1 to 68.8) and relapse rates (n=34 RR 3.18 CI 0.1 to 83.8) were not significantly different. There were no significant difference for movement disorders in one short term study. No study reported on hospital and service outcomes or commented on participants' overall satisfaction with care. Economic outcomes were not recorded by any of the included studies.