Risperidone versus olanzapine for schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental illness that affects about one percent of the population worldwide.
People who suffer from schizophrenia can sometimes experience a relapse of their illness and may require admission to hospital. Incidences of relapse can be exacerbated due to poor compliance with medication; often a consequence of the adverse effects associated with antipsychotic drugs.

Risperidone and olanzapine are among a class of antipsychotic drugs commonly referred to as atypical antipsychotics or new generation drugs. We systematically reviewed the effects of risperidone in comparison to olanzapine for people with schizophrenia and schizophrenia-like illnesses. We were able to include 16 studies. Both drugs appear to have favourable effects in terms of improvement of symptoms. Both these drugs are also associated with adverse effects. Risperidone is commonly associated with movement disorders and sexual dysfunction and olanzapine with considerable weight gain.

Authors' conclusions: 

We know very little of the effects of these drugs regarding service outcomes, general functioning and behaviours, engagement with services and treatment satisfaction from evaluative studies. There was generally a high rate of attrition in the trials and there appears to be little to differentiate between risperidone and olanzapine except on issues of adverse effects. Both drugs are associated with a reduction in psychotic symptoms but both commonly cause unpleasant adverse effects.

Read the full abstract...

Antipsychotic medication is a mainstay of treatment for schizophrenia. Risperidone and olanzapine are popular choices among the new generation drugs.


To determine the clinical effects, safety and cost effectiveness of risperidone compared with olanzapine for treating schizophrenia.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group's Register (Sept 2005) which is based on regular searches of, amongst others, BIOSIS, CENTRAL, CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE and PsycINFO. References of all identified studies were inspected for further trials. We also contacted relevant pharmaceutical companies for additional information.

Selection criteria: 

We included all clinical randomised trials comparing risperidone with olanzapine for schizophrenia and schizophrenia-like psychoses.

Data collection and analysis: 

We extracted data independently. For homogenous dichotomous data we calculated random effects, relative risk (RR), 95% confidence intervals (CI) and, where appropriate, numbers needed to treat/harm (NNT/H) on an intention-to-treat basis. For continuous data, we calculated weighted mean differences (WMD).

Main results: 

We found no difference for the outcome of unchanged or worse in the short term (n=548, 2 RCTs, RR 1.00 CI 0.88 to 1.15). One study favoured olanzapine for the outcome of relapse/rehospitalisation by 12 months (n=279, 1 RCT, RR 2.16 CI 1.31 to 3.54, NNH 7 CI 3 to 25). Most mental state data showed the two drugs to be as effective as each other (n=552, 2 RCTs, RR 'no <20% decrease PANSS by eight weeks' 1.01 CI 0.87 to 1.16). Both drugs commonly cause adverse events: 75% given either drug experience an adverse event; 20% anticholinergic symptoms; both groups experienced insomnia although it was more frequent with risperidone (n=1588, 5 RCTs, RR 1.41 CI 1.15 to 1.72, NNH 15 CI 9 to 41); about 30% experienced sleepiness (n=1713, 6 RCTs, RR 0.92 CI 0.79 to 1.07). People given either drug often experienced some extrapyramidal symptoms (n=893, 3 RCTs, RR 1.18 CI 0.75 to 1.88); 25% of people using risperidone required medication to alleviate these symptoms (n=419, 2 RCTs, RR 1.76 CI 1.25 to 2.48, NNH 8 CI 4 to 25). People allocated to risperidone were less likely to gain weight compared with those given olanzapine and the weight gain was often considerable and of quick onset (n=984, 2 RCTs, RR gain more than 7% of their baseline weight in short term 0.47 CI 0.36 to 0.61, NNH 7 CI 6 to 10). Risperidone participants were less likely to leave the study due to metabolic side effects and weight gain compared with olanzapine (n=667, 1RCT, RR 0.19 CI 0.08 to 0.45). Patients on risperidone were more likely to experience abnormal ejaculation (n=370, 2 RCTs, RR 4.36 CI 1.38 to 13.76, NNH 20 CI 6 to 176). Both drugs are associated with high attrition rates; in the long term consistent findings show that 66% of those allocated risperidone left the study early compared with 56% given olanzapine (n=1440, 5 RCTs, RR 1.17 CI 1.08 to 1.27, NNH 11 CI 7 to 23).