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Original Article |

Atypical Antipsychotic Agents in the Treatment of Violent Patients With Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder FREE

Menahem I. Krakowski, MD, PhD; Pal Czobor, PhD; Leslie Citrome, MD, MPh; Nigel Bark, MD; Thomas B. Cooper, MA
[+] Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, NY (Drs Krakowski, Czobor, and Citrome and Mr Cooper); New York University School of Medicine, New York (Drs Krakowski and Citrome); Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY (Dr Bark); Dov Pharmaceuticals, Hackensack, NJ (Dr Czobor); and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York (Mr Cooper).


Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006;63(6):622-629. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.63.6.622.
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Published online

Context  Violent behavior of patients with schizophrenia prolongs hospital stay and interferes with their integration into the community. Finding appropriate treatment of violent behaviors is of primary importance.

Objective  To compare the efficacy of 2 atypical antipsychotic agents, clozapine and olanzapine, with one another and with haloperidol in the treatment of physical assaults and other aggressive behaviors in physically assaultive patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

Design and Setting  Randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, 12-week trial. Physically assaultive subjects with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder who were inpatients in state psychiatric facilities were randomly assigned to treatment with clozapine (n = 37), olanzapine (n = 37), or haloperidol (n = 36).

Main Outcome Measures  Number and severity of physical assaults as measured by the Modified Overt Aggression Scale (MOAS) physical aggression score and the number and severity of all aggressive events as measured by the MOAS overall score. Psychiatric symptoms were assessed through the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS).

Results  Clozapine was superior to both olanzapine and haloperidol in reducing the number and severity of physical assaults as assessed by the MOAS physical aggression score and in reducing overall aggression as measured by the MOAS total score. Olanzapine was superior to haloperidol in reducing the number and severity of aggressive incidents on these 2 MOAS measures. There were no significant differences among the 3 medication groups in improvement of psychiatric symptoms as measured by the PANSS total score and the 3 PANSS subscales.

Conclusions  Clozapine shows greater efficacy than olanzapine and olanzapine greater efficacy than haloperidol in reducing aggressive behavior. This antiaggressive effect appears to be separate from the antipsychotic and sedative action of these medications.

Figures in this Article

Violent behavior in patients with schizophrenia has serious clinical and societal consequences. In addition to the obvious harm to the victims, it also has a profound impact on its perpetrators. Aggressive and violent behavior is a frequent reason for presentation to an emergency department and subsequent admission to a psychiatric inpatient unit.1 When aggressive behavior persists, it prolongs hospital stays and can constitute an important barrier to appropriate community placement.2,3 Although only a small minority of patients with schizophrenia are violent,46 this behavior stigmatizes the many nonviolent patients.7 Despite the great impact of violent behavior on the lives of patients with schizophrenia, there has been relatively little research on finding appropriate treatments because of difficulties implementing studies involving violent patients.8

The new atypical agents differ pharmacologically from previous antipsychotic agents in their lower affinity for dopamine D2 receptors and greater affinities for serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine1A, 2A, 2C, 3, 6, and 7) and norepinephrine α1 and α2 neuroreceptors.9,10 Norepinephrine and especially serotonin have been implicated in violent behavior.11,12 Deficiency or dysregulation of serotonin has been associated with violence.13 Drugs that block the 5-HT1A and 5-HT2 receptors appear to have selective antiaggressive effects in animals.12 While atypical agents act as serotonin antagonists, their immediate effect being a decrease in available serotonin, there is evidence that chronic treatment with serotonin antagonists produces changes in the serotonin binding sites that are qualitatively and quantitatively similar to those produced by serotonin agonists.14 Chronic treatment with clozapine has been reported to decrease serotonin turnover in the nucleus accumbens.15 In animal models, clozapine's antiaggressive effect has been linked to its serotonergic effect.16

Clozapine was found to have strong antiaggressive effects with minimal motor impairment in mice.17 It reversed the effect of phencyclidine on threat behaviors in rats18 and decreased isolation-induced aggression in mice.16 In psychiatric patients, clozapine is considered to have a “specific” antiaggressive effect; ie, it has an impact on aggression beyond the one it exerts through its antipsychotic or sedative effect. This has been established through various retrospective studies of violent psychiatric inpatients. A significant decrease in the number of violent incidents and episodes of seclusion and restraint was noted in state hospital patients after they began receiving clozapine.19,20 Clozapine produced a more dramatic reduction in violence and seclusions/restraints than in psychotic symptoms in 11 violent patients with schizophrenia.21 In another retrospective study22 conducted in various state hospitals, clozapine reduced significantly violent incidents; its powerful antiaggressive effect was greater than its global antipsychotic effect. In a study of patients with schizophrenia who were randomly assigned to open-label clozapine or continued receiving conventional antipsychotic medications, the patients treated with clozapine became significantly less disruptive than did patients in the usual care group.23

There are more limited data on other atypical agents, especially as related to actual physical assaults. In 1 study based on a large multicenter trial that had the primary goal of comparing the general antipsychotic efficacy of risperidone with that of haloperidol, its effect on hostility was superior to haloperidol.24 Two studies analyzed the hostility and aggression data from a double-blind investigation comparing the general antipsychotic efficacy of olanzapine, clozapine, risperidone, and haloperidol in 157 inpatients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder who were not selected for aggressive behavior. In the first study, patients taking clozapine were found to improve more on the hostility item of the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) than patients taking haloperidol or risperidone.25 This effect on hostility appeared to be independent of the antipsychotic effect of clozapine. In the second study based on these data,26 the comparisons among the 4 drugs were limited to overt incidents of aggression. Once an adequate therapeutic dose of clozapine was reached, it was superior to haloperidol in reducing the number and severity of aggressive incidents.

Some studies on the effect of atypical agents on aggression were conducted in the community. In a prospective study of patients with schizophrenia,27 treatment with atypical antipsychotic medications, including clozapine, risperidone, and olanzapine, significantly reduced violent behavior, whereas treatment with conventional neuroleptics did not significantly reduce violence. In another study by the same group,28 olanzapine was compared with risperidone. Receiving olanzapine for 1 year or longer significantly lowered violence risk, but no significant change in violence risk was found for subjects who received risperidone for 1 year or longer.

Thus, the literature on psychopharmacologic antiaggressive treatments suggests that atypical antipsychotics, particularly clozapine, have superior antiaggressive effects in comparison with typical antipsychotic agents and that they may constitute an important advance in the treatment of violence and aggression. However, most studies that report such effects were uncontrolled while others used data gathered in patients who were not selected on the basis of aggression.

The purpose of the present study is the investigation of the effect of atypical antipsychotic agents on interpersonal violence and aggression. To our knowledge, it is the first randomized, double-blind clinical study specifically designed to assess the efficacy of atypical antipsychotic agents for the treatment of violent behavior among hospitalized patients who were physically assaultive against others.

PATIENTS

Written consent was required from each patient according to a protocol approved by the institutional review boards and compliant with the Declaration of Helsinki. Subjects were 110 patients aged 18 to 60 years and diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder (using diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition), randomly assigned to treatment with clozapine, olanzapine, or haloperidol in a 12-week, double-blind study.

INCLUSION AND EXCLUSION CRITERIA

For inclusion in the study, patients were required to have a clearly confirmed episode of physical assault directed at another person during this hospitalization and some persistence of aggression, as evidenced by the presence of some other aggressive event, whether physical or verbal or against property. Research staff monitored subjects and ward documentation (eg, progress notes and treated-as-needed medication records) daily on all hospital wards to detect possible incidents of physical assault. After finding such an assault, research personnel interviewed the nursing staff to confirm the incident and its severity. Information was then obtained retrospectively on all aggressive incidents for the 4 weeks prior to the qualifying assault. This ascertainment relied completely on record review, ward reports, and hospital incident reports.

Patients were excluded from the study if they had been hospitalized for more than a year; if they had a history of nonresponse to clozapine, olanzapine, or haloperidol (defined as a lack of improvement despite a contiguous adequate trial of medication); if they had a history of clozapine, olanzapine, or haloperidol intolerance; or if they had medical conditions that would be adversely affected by any of these 3 medications. Patients who received a depot antipsychotic within 30 days before randomization were also excluded.

TREATMENTS

Patients who met the study inclusion and exclusion criteria and signed informed consent were transferred to the research ward. The entire study was conducted on the research ward to provide a uniform environment for all patients. This setting allowed also for close monitoring of medication administration because all patients were carefully observed when taking their medications, thus ensuring high treatment compliance. A detailed description of the clinical setting can be found elsewhere.29

During a baseline screening period of 1 to 2 weeks, patients' prestudy antipsychotic medications were adjusted so that the daily dose at the end of the screening period did not exceed 750 mg per day in chlorpromazine equivalents. After completing baseline assessments, patients were randomly assigned to 1 of the 3 treatment arms: clozapine, olanzapine, or haloperidol. The study used a block randomization scheme with a block size of 3 with no baseline stratification. The medications were administered in a double-blind fashion as were all procedures in the study.

The 12-week trial consisted of a 6-week escalation and fixed-dose period and a 6-week variable-dose period. During the first 6 weeks of the study, the prestudy antipsychotic was gradually discontinued while the doses of olanzapine, clozapine, and haloperidol were escalated to their target levels (20, 500, and 20 mg/d, respectively) at which they remained fixed until the end of the first study period. During the last 6 weeks of the study, antipsychotic dose was allowed to vary within the following ranges: clozapine, 200 to 800 mg per day; olanzapine, 10 to 35 mg per day; and haloperidol, 10 to 30 mg per day. Psychiatrists, blind to treatment group assignment, could change the doses by prescribing various “levels” of medication.

Throughout the study, all patients were receiving (double-blind) either benztropine or benztropine placebo or a combination of both. Benztropine (4 mg/d) was administered prophylactically to all patients receiving haloperidol. Patients assigned to atypical antipsychotics were initially receiving only benztropine placebo, but if the patient's psychiatrist (who was unaware of the patient's antipsychotic assignment) determined clinically that the patient should be treated for extrapyramidal adverse effects, a prescription could be written for “benztropine supplements” that would result in real benztropine gradually replacing benztropine placebo (up to 6 mg/d). An analogous arrangement for “supplements” was available to raise the dose of benztropine from 4 to 6 mg per day for emerging extrapyramidal symptoms in patients assigned to haloperidol.

Lorazepam, diphenhydramine hydrochloride, or chloral hydrate were prescribed open-label (by psychiatrists who were blind to antipsychotic treatment assignment) as needed for the treatment of restlessness, agitation, and insomnia. Patients who were receiving mood stabilizers or antidepressants prior to entry into the study continued receiving these medications. Dosage adjustments, if necessary, were done prior to randomization and patients were kept at the same level throughout the study.

ASSESSMENTS

Raters blind to treatment group performed all clinical research assessments. All study procedures, including blood draws, were identical for all 3 groups throughout the study to preserve the blind.

The Modified Overt Aggression Scale (MOAS)30 was used to rate all incidents. The 3 categories of external aggression were used: physical aggression against other people, verbal aggression, and physical aggression against objects. There was a very careful monitoring of all these behaviors occurring on the research ward during the study period. The nursing staff reported all behaviors contemporaneously on a monitoring form that allowed entries to be made for each patient at 30- to 60-minute intervals. Research personnel interviewed the nursing staff after each aggressive event to confirm that an incident of overt aggression had occurred and to obtain detailed information for rating the event and its severity using the 3 categories of aggression. Severity varied for each type of assault from mild to severe. The total score for each type of incident (physical aggression, verbal aggression, and aggression against property) represents the number of incidents over time as well as their severity. For each subject, the overall total MOAS score was also computed. It was obtained by assigning a different weight for each type of aggressive event, using a psychometrically validated method developed by the MOAS authors.30 Following this method, types of aggressive events were rated on a scale of increasing severity with verbal aggression being assigned the lowest weight and physical aggression the highest. Thus, the overall total score represents the number of incidents over time, their severity, and the type of aggression.

The MOAS total score and the score on the physical aggression subscale were the principal measures of efficacy. The interrater reliability, estimated by intraclass correlation coefficient, for the MOAS was established prior to the study and intermittently throughout the study. It was high throughout with an intraclass correlation coefficient above 0.90.

The PANSS31 was used to assess clinical symptoms. It contains 3 subscales, one for positive symptoms, another for negative symptoms, and a general psychopathology subscale. The PANSS was administered at baseline and then weekly during the first month of the study and every other week thereafter. Two independent raters performed assessments at baseline, week 6, and week 12 (or end point); the average of these 2 raters' assessments was included for the analyses of efficacy together with the single-rater ratings from the other points. These paired ratings were also used for the assessment of interrater reliability throughout the study. The interrater reliability, estimated by intraclass correlation coefficient, of the paired ratings for the PANSS total score was above 0.90.

Several safety measures were performed throughout the study. Weekly white blood cell counts were done throughout the study in all patients. This was necessary for clozapine treatment, and it was also done for patients receiving olanzapine and haloperidol to maintain blind conditions. An electrocardiogram and physical examination were done prior to entry in study and at regular intervals during the study. Adverse effects were measured weekly by the Extrapyramidal Symptom Rating Scale32 and a checklist of adverse reactions. Vital signs were done twice a day for all patients during the period of clozapine dose escalation (or corresponding period) and once a week thereafter.

We hypothesized that the 3 study medications differ in their effects on overt aggression as measured by the overall MOAS score and the MOAS physical aggression score with clozapine showing the lowest overt aggression score and haloperidol the highest.

STATISTICAL ANALYSES

The principal analysis of efficacy was based on the intent-to-treat principle; thus, all randomized patients were included in the analyses. Difference among the treatment groups in terms of categorical efficacy measures was investigated by generalized linear model analysis. This method, unlike the traditional linear models, makes allowance for nonnormally distributed observations such as ordered categorical data and counts of events occurring during a given period of time. The total physical aggression score on the MOAS scale and, separately, the overall total MOAS score were used as the dependent variables. Treatment assignment was applied as independent variable in the generalized linear model analysis. Because a preliminary inspection of the data indicated that increasingly higher scores on the MOAS scale occurred with a decreasing frequency (ie, the distribution of the dependent variable displayed an inverted J curve), similarly to data from other studies, the generalized linear model analysis in our study was based on the Poisson distribution. If the analysis indicated a significant overall difference among the treatments, post hoc analyses were conducted to investigate pairwise treatment differences.

In addition to the physical aggression subscale and the overall total MOAS score, which were the principle measures in our study, separate analyses were conducted for the other 2 MOAS subscale scores, verbal aggression and aggression against objects. Differences among groups in improvement of symptom severity (as measured by the PANSS score and the 3 individual subscale scores) were investigated by analysis of covariance. Change in symptom severity over time (from pretreatment baseline to end point) was used as the dependent variable. Treatment group served as the independent variable and baseline severity was used as a covariate. A separate analysis of covariance was performed for each of the measures.

SAMPLE CHARACTERISTICS AND BASELINE INFORMATION

The study was conducted between June 1999 and November 2004. The recruitment and follow-up of study patients is shown in the Figure. There were 134 eligible patients who met all inclusion and exclusion criteria; 24 refused to participate in the study and 110 were randomized. Out of these 110 patients, 102 patients were enrolled in 1 site. A second site was recruited for the trial while the study was already ongoing and contributed only 8 patients. Because the overwhelming majority of the patients were coming from 1 site, we pooled patients from the second site with patients from the first for the purpose of statistical analyses.

Place holder to copy figure label and caption
Figure.

Patient flowchart.

Graphic Jump Location

Thirty-seven patients were assigned to clozapine, 37 to olanzapine, and 36 to haloperidol. Forty patients did not complete the full 12 weeks. Nonparametric survival analysis (Kaplan-Meier method) of participation in the double-blind treatment showed no significant difference among the 3 treatment groups in the median time of survival (attrition) in the study (χ22 = 2.4, P = .29 by log-rank test). The mean (SE) survival time in the study was 9.2 (0.50), 7.8 (0.45), and 8.3 (0.61) weeks for the clozapine, olanzapine, and haloperidol groups, respectively.

There were no significant differences among the 3 groups in length of hospitalization upon entry in the study with a median length of hospitalization of 48 days at that point. There were no differences among the 3 groups in the proportion of subjects who were receiving typical or atypical antipsychotic agents prior to randomization and no differences in the proportion of subjects receiving other psychotropic medications, including mood stabilizers or antidepressants.

There were no differences among the 3 medication groups in the total number of physical assaults (F2,109 = 1.76, P = .19) during the 4-week period preceding the qualifying physical assault as determined by the retrospective review of records on the various wards (clozapine: mean ± SD, 0.92 ± 0.68 [median, 1.0]; olanzapine: mean ± SD, 0.97 ± 0.73 [median, 1.0]; haloperidol: mean ± SD, 1.22 ± 0.80 [median, 1.0]). Furthermore, there were no differences (F2,109 = 2.17, P = .12) among the 3 groups in the total number of aggressive incidents, including physical and verbal aggression as well as aggression against property, during this 4-week period (clozapine: mean ± SD, 2.14 ± 1.27 [median, 2.0]; olanzapine: mean ± SD, 2.16 ± 1.44 [median, 2.0]; haloperidol: mean ± SD, 2.80 ± 1.88 [median, 2.5]).

Table 1 displays the demographic and psychiatric characteristics by treatment group. Patients randomized to clozapine, olanzapine, and haloperidol did not differ on any of these baseline characteristics (Table 1).

Table Graphic Jump LocationTable 1. Baseline Characteristics of Patients Assigned to Receive Clozapine, Olanzapine, and Haloperidol

At the end point of the first 6 weeks, the escalation and fixed-dose period, the average dose was 457.1 mg per day for clozapine (SD, 128.2 mg/d; median dose, 500.0 mg/d), 19.8 mg per day for olanzapine (SD, 3.1 mg/d; median, 20.0 mg/d), and 19.6 mg per day for haloperidol (SD, 3.9 mg/d; median, 20.0 mg/d). At the end of the last 6 weeks of the study, the variable-dose period, the average dose was 565.5 mg per day for clozapine (SD, 112.7 mg/d; median dose, 550.0 mg/d), 24.7 mg per day for olanzapine (SD, 6.1 mg/d; median, 25.0 mg/d), and 23.3 mg per day for haloperidol (SD, 7.1 mg/d; median, 25.0 mg/d).

There were no significant differences among the 3 groups in the use of treated-as-needed medication, including lorazepam, diphenhydramine hydrochloride, or chloral hydrate. There were no differences in sedation or extrapyramidal symptoms among the 3 medication groups. Lack of differences in extrapyramidal symptoms was probably due to the prophylactic use of anticholinergic medication in the haloperidol group.

AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIORS

The primary variables of interest for this study were the total MOAS score and the MOAS physical aggression score for each patient during participation in the study. The 3 medication groups differed in MOAS total score (clozapine: mean, 25.1; median, 18; interquartile range, 6-34; olanzapine: mean, 32.7; median, 29; interquartile range, 6-51; haloperidol: mean, 40.9; median, 24; interquartile range, 3-48). Generalized linear model analysis indicated that this difference in total MOAS score among the 3 groups was significant (χ22 = 159.2, P<.001). Post hoc comparisons showed that clozapine was superior to both haloperidol (χ21 = 154.7, P<.001) and olanzapine (χ21 = 36.2, P<.001) and that olanzapine was superior to haloperidol (χ21 = 44.9, P<.001) (Table 2).

Table Graphic Jump LocationTable 2. Differences in the Various Forms of Overt Aggression Among Patients Treated With Clozapine, Olanzapine, and Haloperidol*

The 3 medication groups differed in the MOAS physical aggression score (clozapine: mean, 10.3; median, 4; interquartile range, 0-16; olanzapine: mean, 14.1; median, 12; interquartile range, 0-20; haloperidol: mean, 20.7; median, 6; interquartile range, 0-20). This difference among the 3 groups was significant (χ22 = 145.4, P<.001). Post hoc comparisons indicated that clozapine was superior to haloperidol (χ21 = 134.0, P<.001) and to olanzapine (χ21 = 21.3, P<.001). Olanzapine was superior to haloperidol (χ21 = 54.0, P<.001) (Table 2).

In addition to the total MOAS score and the MOAS physical aggression score, we investigated also aggression against property and verbal aggression in secondary analyses. The 3 medication groups differed on the MOAS aggression against property (clozapine: mean, 2.6; median, 0; interquartile range, 0-2; olanzapine: mean, 2.7; median, 0; interquartile range, 0-4; haloperidol: mean, 4.7; median, 0; interquartile range, 0-6). This overall difference among the groups was significant (χ22 = 24.8, P<.001). In post hoc tests, clozapine was superior to haloperidol (χ21 = 18.6, P<.001) as was olanzapine (χ21 = 16.4, P<.001), but there was no significant difference between clozapine and olanzapine for this type of aggression (Table 2).

The 3 medication groups differed in MOAS verbal aggression score (clozapine: mean, 12.2; median, 9; interquartile range, 2-15; olanzapine: mean, 16.0; median, 11; interquartile range, 4-23; haloperidol: mean, 15.6; median, 7.5; interquartile range, 2-25). This overall difference among the groups was significant (χ22 = 26.4, P<.001). Clozapine was superior to both haloperidol (χ21 = 21.7, P<.001) and olanzapine (χ21 = 17.6, P<.001), but there was no significant difference between olanzapine and haloperidol (Table 2). The effect sizes for the primary variables, the physical aggression and total MOAS score, as well as for aggression against property and verbal aggression are presented in Table 2.

We repeated all of these analyses for each type of assault using as covariates the corresponding MOAS scores derived retrospectively from hospital records for the 4-week period prior to study entry. The results remained unchanged; the same significant differences among the 3 medication groups were found in these analyses. Similarly, the results remained unchanged when we repeated the analyses for each type of assault using every patient's duration in the study as a covariate in the analyses.

PSYCHOTIC SYMPTOMS

We investigated the differences among the 3 groups in improvement of symptom severity as measured by the PANSS total score and the individual subscale scores (including the subscale for positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and general psychopathology). Change in symptom severity over time (from pretreatment baseline to end point) was used as the dependent variable. Patients receiving olanzapine showed the most improvement and those receiving haloperidol the least, but these differences were not statistically significant on any of these measures (Table 3). We repeated the analyses, removing the hostility item from the PANSS, because its rating is influenced by aggression. The results were essentially unchanged.

Table Graphic Jump LocationTable 3. Change in the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale Total Score and in the 3 PANSS Subscale Scores (With Baseline Values as Covariates)*

The 3 medications showed significant differences in their effects on the likelihood and severity of aggressive incidents over the 12-week study period. Clozapine was superior to both olanzapine and haloperidol while olanzapine was superior to haloperidol in its effect on the 2 primary measures of aggression in this study, the MOAS physical aggression score and the overall MOAS score.

In addition to these, there were also significant differences between clozapine and haloperidol on the 2 secondary measures of aggression, the MOAS aggression against property and MOAS verbal aggression scores. Furthermore, clozapine was superior to olanzapine in reducing verbal aggression and olanzapine was superior to haloperidol in reducing aggression against property. There was no significant difference between clozapine and olanzapine in MOAS aggression against property and no difference between olanzapine and haloperidol in MOAS verbal aggression.

There were no significant differences in psychiatric symptoms as measured by the PANSS among the 3 medication groups. The discrepancy between the antipsychotic and antiaggressive effects of the atypical antipsychotic agents is consistent with the studies mentioned earlier in the article21,22,25 that showed decreases in aggression with clozapine that were far greater than what could be attributed to the reduction in psychotic symptoms per se. The differences in aggression could not be attributed to differences in the sedative properties of the medications because there were no significant differences in sedation among the 3 medication groups.

The reason for the specific antiaggressive effect of clozapine and, to a lesser extent, olanzapine is not clear. It may be attributable to the differences in serotonergic or adrenergic receptor activities of these agents as compared with conventional antipsychotic agents. It is possible that their antiaggressive effect reflects normalization of serotonergic function. The greater limbic selectivity of clozapine,33 shared also by olanzapine,34 may also play a role in this antiaggressive effect.35

The 2 atypical agents in our study showed better antipsychotic efficacy than haloperidol, but the effect size was modest and the difference did not reach statistical significance. Our results contrast with several studies that report significantly greater antipsychotic efficacy for atypical agents.36,37 They are similar in this respect to other findings, such as the study by Rosenheck et al,38 who found no significant difference in psychiatric symptoms between olanzapine and haloperidol in a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial comparing these 2 medication groups. It should be noted, however, that our study uses a different population (ie, patients selected on the basis of violent behavior) and was not designed to evaluate differences in antipsychotic effects in regular schizophrenic populations. These results, therefore, cannot be used to guide clinical practice in such populations.

The patients in this study were not treatment resistant, as a history of treatment resistance to any of the 3 study drugs was an exclusion criterion, but the length of the present hospitalization is longer than the duration in nonstate facilities. Although the presence of physical assaults prolongs hospitalization in all facilities,3 this difference in length of stay should be taken into consideration because it may limit the generalizability of the findings.

The study was conducted entirely on a research ward in an inpatient setting. This allowed for a uniform environment, careful monitoring of violent incidents, and close supervision of the administration of medication, ensuring high treatment compliance. The setting, however, limits the generalizability of the findings with regard to treatment of violence in the community. There are additional factors that are associated with community violence, such as treatment compliance, substance abuse,39 homelessness, and adverse social environments. Thus, antipsychotic agents may exert their influence on violent behavior indirectly through their impact on these factors. In the studies conducted in the community,27,28 the advantage of the atypical agents over conventional antipsychotic medications27 and of olanzapine over risperidone28 was due, in part, to greater treatment compliance with these medications. Clozapine has also been associated with decreased substance abuse,40,41 and this may mediate, to some extent, its reduction of violence in the community.

The present study was not designed to examine these factors. As we gain better understanding of the complex and varied etiology of violence in patients with schizophrenia, we will be able to design treatments that will target diverse factors that contribute to the behavior, such as drug addiction, trauma sequelae, or treatment compliance.

This article deals with long-term management of inpatients with persistent aggressive behavior. It is unique in being the first double-blind study of atypical agents that was specifically designed for the investigation of aggression with subjects who were selected on the basis of physical assaults. The study confirms findings reported in the literature in open studies and in populations that were not selected on the basis of violent behavior. The findings of the study point to the value of clozapine and to a lesser degree olanzapine in the treatment of violence. Treatment with these medications should be considered as an important component of violence risk management, especially in patients with a history of persistent violence. It has important implications in facilitating discharge planning and reintegration of the patient back into the community. A trial of clozapine should be offered to patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder whose violent behavior does not respond well to adequate trial of other antipsychotic medications.

Correspondence: Menahem I. Krakowski, MD, PhD, Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, 140 Old Orangeburg Rd, Orangeburg, NY 10962 (krakow@nki.rfmh.org).

Submitted for Publication: July 29, 2005; final revision received October 12, 2005; accepted October 25, 2005.

Financial Disclosure: Eli Lilly and Company and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation provided medications for the study. Eli Lilly and Company contributed supplemental funding for encapsulation of the medications. Overall experimental design, data acquisition, statistical analyses, and interpretation of the results were implemented with no input from any of the pharmaceutical companies.

Funding/Support: This study was supported by grant MH58341 from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Acknowledgment: We thank Linda Kline, RN, MS, CS, the chief coordinator of the project, and Dr Jerome Levine, deputy director, the Nathan Kline Institute; the Clinical Research and Evaluation Facility (CREF) psychiatrists, Dr Biman Roy, Dr Angel Cienfuegos, Dr William Greenberg, Dr Fabien Tremeau, and Dr Narenda Patel; the CREF internist, Dr Surgit Dhami; Mike Hill and Henry Epstein, the CREF nursing staff and the Nathan Kline Institute research staff, Melissa Benedict, Elsie Andrade, Fay Gruenbaum, Gabriel Goldfedder, Yakov Frances, Susan Grencer, Michael Radosta, and Lorraine O’Donnell; and the Nathan Kline Institute research nurses, Santhamma Vaidian and Eunide Joseph. We thank also Dr Joseph Battaglia, Stephen Tomor, and Stuart Moss.

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Volavka  JCitrome  L Atypical antipsychotics in the treatment of the persistently aggressive psychotic patient: methodological concerns. Schizophr Res 1999;35S23- S33
PubMed Link to Article
Miyamoto  SDuncan  GEMarx  CELieberman  JA Treatments for schizophrenia: a critical review of pharmacology and mechanisms of action of antipsychotic drugs. Mol Psychiatry 2005;1079- 104
PubMed Link to Article
Curtis  VAWright  PReveley  AKerwin  RLucey  JV Effect of clozapine on d-fenfluramine-evoked neuroendocrine responses in schizophrenia and its relationship to clinical improvement. Br J Psychiatry 1995;166642- 646
PubMed Link to Article
Haller  JMakara  GBKruk  MR Catecholaminergic involvement in the control of aggression: hormones, the peripheral sympathetic, and central noradrenergic systems. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 1998;2285- 97
PubMed Link to Article
Miczek  KAWeerts  EHaney  MTidey  J Neurobiological mechanisms controlling aggression: preclinical developments for pharmacotherapeutic interventions. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 1994;1897- 110
PubMed Link to Article
Brown  CSKent  TABryant  SGGevedon  RMCampbell  JLFelthous  ARBarratt  ESRose  RM Blood platelet uptake of serotonin in episodic aggression. Psychiatry Res 1989;275- 12
PubMed Link to Article
Blackshear  MAMartin  LLSanders-Bush  E Adaptive changes in the 5-HT2 binding site after chronic administration of agonist and antagonists. Neuropharmacology 1986;251267- 1271
PubMed Link to Article
Csernansky  JGWrona  CTBardgett  MEEarly  MSNewcomer  JW Subcortical dopamine and serotonin turnover during acute and subchronic administration of typical and atypical neuroleptics. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1993;110145- 151
PubMed Link to Article
Sanchez  CArnt  JHyttel  JMoltzen  EK The role of serotonergic mechanisms in inhibition of isolation-induced aggression in male mice. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1993;11053- 59
PubMed Link to Article
Garmendia  LSanchez  JRAzpiroz  ABrain  PFSimon  VM Clozapine: strong antiaggressive effects with minimal motor impairment. Physiol Behav 1992;5151- 54
PubMed Link to Article
Steinpreis  RESokolowski  JDPapanikolaou  ASalamone  JD The effects of haloperidol and clozapine on PCP- and amphetamine-induced suppression of social behavior in the rat. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 1994;47579- 585
PubMed Link to Article
Wilson  WH Clinical review of clozapine treatment in a state hospital. Hosp Community Psychiatry 1992;43700- 703
PubMed
Wilson  WHClaussen  AM 18-month outcome of clozapine treatment for 100 patients in a state psychiatric hospital. Psychiatr Serv 1995;46386- 389
PubMed
Buckley  PBartell  JDonenwirth  KLee  STorigoe  FSchulz  SC Violence and schizophrenia: clozapine as a specific antiaggressive agent. Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law 1995;23607- 611
PubMed
Volavka  JZito  JMVitrai  JCzobor  P Clozapine effects on hostility and aggression in schizophrenia. J Clin Psychopharmacol 1993;13287- 289
PubMed Link to Article
Essock  SMFrisman  LKCovell  NHHargreaves  W Cost-effectiveness of clozapine compared with conventional antipsychotic medications for patients in state hospitals. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2000;57987- 994
PubMed Link to Article
Czobor  PVolavka  JMeibach  RC Effect of risperidone on hostility in schizophrenia. J Clin Psychopharmacol 1995;15243- 249
PubMed Link to Article
Citrome  LVolavka  JCzobor  PSheitman  BLindenmayer  JPMcEvoy  JCooper  TBChakos  MLieberman  JA Effects of clozapine, olanzapine, risperidone, and haloperidol on hostility in treatment-resistant patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Psychiatr Serv 2001;521510- 1514
PubMed Link to Article
Volavka  JCzobor  PNolan  KSheitman  BLindenmayer  JPCitrome  LMcEvoy  JPCooper  TBLieberman  JA Overt aggression and psychotic symptoms in patients with schizophrenia treated with clozapine, olanzapine, risperidone, or haloperidol. J Clin Psychopharmacol 2004;24225- 228
PubMed Link to Article
Swanson  JWSwartz  MSElbogen  EB Effectiveness of atypical antipsychotic medications in reducing violent behavior among persons with schizophrenia in community-based treatment. Schizophr Bull 2004;303- 20
PubMed Link to Article
Swanson  JWSwartz  MSElbogen  EBVan Dorn  RA Reducing violence risk in persons with schizophrenia: olanzapine vs. risperidone. J Clin Psychiatry 2004;651666- 1673
PubMed Link to Article
Nolan  KACzobor  PRoy  BPlatt  MShope  CCitrome  LVolavka  J Characteristics of assaultive behavior in psychiatric inpatients. Psychiatr Serv 2003;541012- 1016
PubMed Link to Article
Kay  SRWolkenfeld  FMurrill  L Profiles of aggression among psychiatric patients. I. Nature and prevalence. J Nerv Ment Dis 1988;176539- 546
PubMed Link to Article
Kay  SRFiszbein  AOpler  LA The positive and negative syndrome scale (PANSS) for schizophrenia. Schizophr Bull 1987;13261- 276
PubMed Link to Article
Chouinard  GRoss-Chouinard  AAnnable  LJones  BD Extrapyramidal symptom rating scale. Can J Neurol Sci 1980;7233
Chiodo  LABunney  BS Possible mechanisms by which repeated clozapine administration differentially affects the activity of two subpopulations of midbrain dopamine neurons. J Neurosci 1985;52539- 2544
PubMed
Stockton  MERasmussen  K A comparison of olanzapine and clozapine effects on dopamine neuronal activity: an electrophysiological study. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts 1993;19383
Meltzer  HY Role of serotonin in the action of atypical antipsychotic drugs. Clin Neurosci 1995;364- 75
PubMed
Buchanan  RWBreier  AKirkpatrick  BBall  PCarpenter  WT  Jr Positive and negative symptom response in schizophrenic patients with and without the deficit syndrome. Am J Psychiatry 1998;155751- 760
PubMed
Davis  JMChen  NGlick  ID A meta-analysis of the efficacy of second-generation antipsychotics. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2003;60553- 564
PubMed Link to Article
Rosenheck  RPerlick  DBingham  SLiu-Mares  WCollins  JWarren  SLeslie  DAllan  ECampbell  ECCaroff  SCorwin  JDavis  LDouyon  RDunn  LEvans  DFrecska  EGrabowski  JGraeber  DHerz  LKwon  KLawson  WMena  FSheikh  JSmelson  DSmith-Gamble  VDepartment of Veterans Affairs Cooperative Study Group on the Cost-Effectiveness of Olanzapine, Effectiveness and cost of olanzapine and haloperidol in the treatment of schizophrenia. JAMA 2003;2902693- 2702
PubMed Link to Article
Swartz  MSSwanson  JWHiday  VABorum  RWagner  HRBurns  BJ Violence and severe mental illness: the effects of substance abuse and nonadherence to medication. Am J Psychiatry 1998;155226- 231
PubMed
Green  AIBurgess  ESDawson  RZimmet  SVStrous  RD Alcohol and cannabis use in schizophrenia: effects of clozapine vs. risperidone. Schizophr Res 2003;6081- 85
PubMed Link to Article
Drake  REXie  HMcHugo  GJGreen  AI The effects of clozapine on alcohol and drug use disorders among patients with schizophrenia. Schizophr Bull 2000;26441- 449
PubMed Link to Article

Figures

Place holder to copy figure label and caption
Figure.

Patient flowchart.

Graphic Jump Location

Tables

Table Graphic Jump LocationTable 1. Baseline Characteristics of Patients Assigned to Receive Clozapine, Olanzapine, and Haloperidol
Table Graphic Jump LocationTable 2. Differences in the Various Forms of Overt Aggression Among Patients Treated With Clozapine, Olanzapine, and Haloperidol*
Table Graphic Jump LocationTable 3. Change in the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale Total Score and in the 3 PANSS Subscale Scores (With Baseline Values as Covariates)*

References

Lelliott  PWing  JClifford  P A national audit of new long-stay psychiatric patients. I: method and description of the cohort. Br J Psychiatry 1994;165160- 169
PubMed Link to Article
Bigelow  DACutler  DLMoore  LJMcComb  PLeung  P Characteristics of state hospital patients who are hard to place. Hosp Community Psychiatry 1988;39181- 185
PubMed
Greenfield  TKMcNiel  DEBinder  RL Violent behavior and length of psychiatric hospitalization. Hosp Community Psychiatry 1989;40809- 814
PubMed
Swanson  JWHolzer  CE  IIIGanju  VKJono  RT Violence and psychiatric disorder in the community: evidence from the Epidemiologic Catchment Area surveys. Hosp Community Psychiatry 1990;41761- 770[erratum in: Hosp Community Psychiatry 1991;42954- 955
PubMed
Monahan  JAppelbaum  P Reducing violence risk: diagnostically based clues from the MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study. In:Hodgins  Sed. Effective Prevention of Crime and Violence Among the Mentally III.  Dordrecht, The Netherlands Kluwer Academic Publishers2000;19- 34
Swanson  J Mental disorder, substance abuse, and community violence: an epidemiological approach. In:Monahan  JSteadman  Heds. Violence and Mental Disorder: Developments in Risk Assessment.  Chicago, Ill University of Chicago Press1994;101- 136
Angermeyer  MCMatschinger  H The effect of violent attacks by schizophrenic persons on the attitude of the public towards the mentally ill. Soc Sci Med 1996;431721- 1728
PubMed Link to Article
Volavka  JCitrome  L Atypical antipsychotics in the treatment of the persistently aggressive psychotic patient: methodological concerns. Schizophr Res 1999;35S23- S33
PubMed Link to Article
Miyamoto  SDuncan  GEMarx  CELieberman  JA Treatments for schizophrenia: a critical review of pharmacology and mechanisms of action of antipsychotic drugs. Mol Psychiatry 2005;1079- 104
PubMed Link to Article
Curtis  VAWright  PReveley  AKerwin  RLucey  JV Effect of clozapine on d-fenfluramine-evoked neuroendocrine responses in schizophrenia and its relationship to clinical improvement. Br J Psychiatry 1995;166642- 646
PubMed Link to Article
Haller  JMakara  GBKruk  MR Catecholaminergic involvement in the control of aggression: hormones, the peripheral sympathetic, and central noradrenergic systems. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 1998;2285- 97
PubMed Link to Article
Miczek  KAWeerts  EHaney  MTidey  J Neurobiological mechanisms controlling aggression: preclinical developments for pharmacotherapeutic interventions. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 1994;1897- 110
PubMed Link to Article
Brown  CSKent  TABryant  SGGevedon  RMCampbell  JLFelthous  ARBarratt  ESRose  RM Blood platelet uptake of serotonin in episodic aggression. Psychiatry Res 1989;275- 12
PubMed Link to Article
Blackshear  MAMartin  LLSanders-Bush  E Adaptive changes in the 5-HT2 binding site after chronic administration of agonist and antagonists. Neuropharmacology 1986;251267- 1271
PubMed Link to Article
Csernansky  JGWrona  CTBardgett  MEEarly  MSNewcomer  JW Subcortical dopamine and serotonin turnover during acute and subchronic administration of typical and atypical neuroleptics. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1993;110145- 151
PubMed Link to Article
Sanchez  CArnt  JHyttel  JMoltzen  EK The role of serotonergic mechanisms in inhibition of isolation-induced aggression in male mice. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1993;11053- 59
PubMed Link to Article
Garmendia  LSanchez  JRAzpiroz  ABrain  PFSimon  VM Clozapine: strong antiaggressive effects with minimal motor impairment. Physiol Behav 1992;5151- 54
PubMed Link to Article
Steinpreis  RESokolowski  JDPapanikolaou  ASalamone  JD The effects of haloperidol and clozapine on PCP- and amphetamine-induced suppression of social behavior in the rat. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 1994;47579- 585
PubMed Link to Article
Wilson  WH Clinical review of clozapine treatment in a state hospital. Hosp Community Psychiatry 1992;43700- 703
PubMed
Wilson  WHClaussen  AM 18-month outcome of clozapine treatment for 100 patients in a state psychiatric hospital. Psychiatr Serv 1995;46386- 389
PubMed
Buckley  PBartell  JDonenwirth  KLee  STorigoe  FSchulz  SC Violence and schizophrenia: clozapine as a specific antiaggressive agent. Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law 1995;23607- 611
PubMed
Volavka  JZito  JMVitrai  JCzobor  P Clozapine effects on hostility and aggression in schizophrenia. J Clin Psychopharmacol 1993;13287- 289
PubMed Link to Article
Essock  SMFrisman  LKCovell  NHHargreaves  W Cost-effectiveness of clozapine compared with conventional antipsychotic medications for patients in state hospitals. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2000;57987- 994
PubMed Link to Article
Czobor  PVolavka  JMeibach  RC Effect of risperidone on hostility in schizophrenia. J Clin Psychopharmacol 1995;15243- 249
PubMed Link to Article
Citrome  LVolavka  JCzobor  PSheitman  BLindenmayer  JPMcEvoy  JCooper  TBChakos  MLieberman  JA Effects of clozapine, olanzapine, risperidone, and haloperidol on hostility in treatment-resistant patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Psychiatr Serv 2001;521510- 1514
PubMed Link to Article
Volavka  JCzobor  PNolan  KSheitman  BLindenmayer  JPCitrome  LMcEvoy  JPCooper  TBLieberman  JA Overt aggression and psychotic symptoms in patients with schizophrenia treated with clozapine, olanzapine, risperidone, or haloperidol. J Clin Psychopharmacol 2004;24225- 228
PubMed Link to Article
Swanson  JWSwartz  MSElbogen  EB Effectiveness of atypical antipsychotic medications in reducing violent behavior among persons with schizophrenia in community-based treatment. Schizophr Bull 2004;303- 20
PubMed Link to Article
Swanson  JWSwartz  MSElbogen  EBVan Dorn  RA Reducing violence risk in persons with schizophrenia: olanzapine vs. risperidone. J Clin Psychiatry 2004;651666- 1673
PubMed Link to Article
Nolan  KACzobor  PRoy  BPlatt  MShope  CCitrome  LVolavka  J Characteristics of assaultive behavior in psychiatric inpatients. Psychiatr Serv 2003;541012- 1016
PubMed Link to Article
Kay  SRWolkenfeld  FMurrill  L Profiles of aggression among psychiatric patients. I. Nature and prevalence. J Nerv Ment Dis 1988;176539- 546
PubMed Link to Article
Kay  SRFiszbein  AOpler  LA The positive and negative syndrome scale (PANSS) for schizophrenia. Schizophr Bull 1987;13261- 276
PubMed Link to Article
Chouinard  GRoss-Chouinard  AAnnable  LJones  BD Extrapyramidal symptom rating scale. Can J Neurol Sci 1980;7233
Chiodo  LABunney  BS Possible mechanisms by which repeated clozapine administration differentially affects the activity of two subpopulations of midbrain dopamine neurons. J Neurosci 1985;52539- 2544
PubMed
Stockton  MERasmussen  K A comparison of olanzapine and clozapine effects on dopamine neuronal activity: an electrophysiological study. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts 1993;19383
Meltzer  HY Role of serotonin in the action of atypical antipsychotic drugs. Clin Neurosci 1995;364- 75
PubMed
Buchanan  RWBreier  AKirkpatrick  BBall  PCarpenter  WT  Jr Positive and negative symptom response in schizophrenic patients with and without the deficit syndrome. Am J Psychiatry 1998;155751- 760
PubMed
Davis  JMChen  NGlick  ID A meta-analysis of the efficacy of second-generation antipsychotics. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2003;60553- 564
PubMed Link to Article
Rosenheck  RPerlick  DBingham  SLiu-Mares  WCollins  JWarren  SLeslie  DAllan  ECampbell  ECCaroff  SCorwin  JDavis  LDouyon  RDunn  LEvans  DFrecska  EGrabowski  JGraeber  DHerz  LKwon  KLawson  WMena  FSheikh  JSmelson  DSmith-Gamble  VDepartment of Veterans Affairs Cooperative Study Group on the Cost-Effectiveness of Olanzapine, Effectiveness and cost of olanzapine and haloperidol in the treatment of schizophrenia. JAMA 2003;2902693- 2702
PubMed Link to Article
Swartz  MSSwanson  JWHiday  VABorum  RWagner  HRBurns  BJ Violence and severe mental illness: the effects of substance abuse and nonadherence to medication. Am J Psychiatry 1998;155226- 231
PubMed
Green  AIBurgess  ESDawson  RZimmet  SVStrous  RD Alcohol and cannabis use in schizophrenia: effects of clozapine vs. risperidone. Schizophr Res 2003;6081- 85
PubMed Link to Article
Drake  REXie  HMcHugo  GJGreen  AI The effects of clozapine on alcohol and drug use disorders among patients with schizophrenia. Schizophr Bull 2000;26441- 449
PubMed Link to Article

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