Quetiapine (Seroquel), a dibenzothiazepine derivative, is an atypical antipsychotic with demonstrated efficacy in acute schizophrenia. In short-term, randomised, double-blind trials, it was usually more effective than placebo, and was generally effective against both positive and negative symptoms. Overall, quetiapine (up to 750 mg/day) was at least as effective as chlorpromazine (up to 750 mg/day) and had similar efficacy to haloperidol (up to 16 mg/day) in patients with acute schizophrenia in randomised, double-blind trials; it was at least as effective as haloperidol 20 mg/day in patients with schizophrenia unresponsive or partially responsive to previous antipsychotic treatment. Improvements in overall psychopathology and positive and negative symptoms with quetiapine (up to 800 mg/day) were similar to those with risperidone (up to 8 mg/day) or olanzapine (15 mg/day) [interim analysis]. Efficacy was maintained for at least 52 weeks in open-label follow-up studies in adult and elderly patients. Quetiapine improved cognitive function versus haloperidol, and depressive symptoms and hostility/aggression versus placebo. Quetiapine is well tolerated. It is associated with placebo-level incidence of extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS) across its entire dose range, appears to have a low risk for EPS in vulnerable patient groups (e.g. the elderly, adolescents or patients with organic brain disorders) and has a more favourable EPS profile than risperidone. Irrespective of dose, quetiapine, unlike risperidone and amisulpride, does not elevate plasma prolactin levels compared with placebo, and previously elevated levels may even normalise. Quetiapine appears to have minimal short-term effects on bodyweight and a favourable long-term bodyweight profile. Preliminary studies indicate that there is a high level of patient acceptability and satisfaction with quetiapine. In conclusion, quetiapine has shown efficacy against both positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, and has benefits in improving cognitive deficits, affective symptoms and aggression/hostility. The beneficial effects of quetiapine have been maintained for at least 52 weeks. Quetiapine was effective and well tolerated in hard-to-treat patients, and may be of particular use in these individuals. It is at least as effective as standard antipsychotics and appears to have similar efficacy to risperidone and olanzapine. The relative risk/benefit profile of quetiapine compared with other atypical antipsychotics requires further research in head-to-head trials, although quetiapine's relatively benign tolerability profile distinguishes it from other commonly used atypical agents, particularly with respect to bodyweight, EPS and plasma prolactin levels. Overall, quetiapine has an excellent risk/benefit profile and is a suitable first-line option for the treatment of schizophrenia.
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