Background Discontinuation of antipsychotics predisposes patients with remitted/stable first-episode psychosis (FEP) to a higher risk of relapse, but it remains unclear how long discontinuation increases the relapse rate in these patients compared with maintenance.Methods This meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) compared relapse rates in FEP patients between antipsychotic treatment discontinuation and maintenance groups at 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 12 (primary), and 18-24 months. The risk ratio (RR) and numbers needed to treat/harm (NNT/NNH) were calculated using a random-effects model.Results Ten RCTs were identified (n = 776; mean study duration, 18.6 ± 6.0 months). The antipsychotics were discontinued abruptly in four RCTs (which reported data only at 12 months) and after tapering off gradually over several months (mean length, 3 months) in six RCTs. Compared with the discontinuation group, the maintenance group experienced significantly fewer relapses at all time points except 1 month [RR (NNT): 2 months, 0.49 (13); 3 months, 0.46 (9); 6 months, 0.55 (6); 9 months, 0.48 (3); 12 months, 0.47 (3); and 18-24 months, 0.57 (4)]. The maintenance group was associated with higher discontinuation due to adverse events (RR, 2.61; NNH, not significant).Conclusions Maintaining antipsychotic treatment prevented relapse for up to 24 months in FEP patients. Discontinuation of antipsychotics for ≥ months significantly increased the risk of relapse. However, 45.7% of patients who discontinued antipsychotics for 12 months (39.4% after 18-24 months) did not experience a relapse.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Applied Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health