The Boston Globe
By Scott Allen
The biggest study ever of drugs for schizophrenia should help psychiatrists get away from trial and error in treating their patients with the debilitating mental illness, its authors said yesterday. But the $44 million federally funded research project also reached a much darker conclusion: None of the drugs works very well.
Nearly three-quarters of the patients in the study stopped taking their assigned schizophrenia drugs before the 18-month study was finished, mainly because the medications didn’t improve their condition enough or they couldn’t stand side effects ranging from weight gain to nervous tics. Nearly two-thirds of those who took the most effective drug, Zyprexa, nonetheless switched to a different medication during the study, in part because it caused patients to put on an average of 9 pounds the most of the five drugs in the study.
The study, known by its acronym, CATIE, also raised doubts about whether new drugs that now dominate treatment of schizophrenia are significantly better than older, less expensive medicines. To the researchers’ surprise, a little prescribed older drug called Trilafon worked as well as all the newer drugs except Zyprexa, at a fraction of the cost and with no more side effects…