• Vol. 35 No. 7, 457–460
  • 15 July 2006

Reducing Polypharmacy Through the Introduction of a Treatment Algorithm: Use of a Treatment Algorithm on the Impact on Polypharmacy



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Introduction: Polypharmacy is very common in the psychiatric setting despite the lack of evidence to justify its use. The objective of this study was to review the prescription patterns in a tertiary mental health institute in Asia and evaluate the impact of a treatment algorithm for patients with first-episode psychosis (FEP) on the use of polypharmacy.

Materials and Methods: A treatment algorithm was implemented for patients accepted into an Early Psychosis Intervention Programme (EPIP) and the prescription patterns of these patients were compared with a comparator group (pre-EPIP) before the use of the algorithm. The prescribing pattern was established at 2 points: at baseline after the diagnosis was made, and 3 months later.

Results: There were 68 subjects in the comparator group and 483 EPIP patients; the latter were on the average younger. None in the comparator group was diagnosed to have an affective psychosis. There was a significant reduction in the rate of antipsychotic polypharmacy, prolonged use of benzodiazepines and anticholinergic medication in EPIP patients. This group also had an increase in the use of second-generation antipsychotics and received lower doses of antipsychotics.

Conclusion: The implementation of a treatment algorithm coupled with audit has changed the trend towards polypharmacy among patients with FEP.

The use of 2 or more antipsychotic medications (polypharmacy) for an episode of psychosis is pervasive despite the lack of evidence-based data. It is also associated with higher daily dosing, more frequent use of adjunctive medications such as anticholinergic agents, higher rate of adverse effects and under-utilisation of atypical antipsychotic medications, and possibly greater costs.

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