Effect of Second-Generation Antipsychotics on Employment and Productivity in Individuals with Schizophrenia: An Economic Perspective
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that imposes a considerable burden not only on those who are ill, but also on their families, neighbours and the wider society. Costs associated with treating people with schizophrenia are those derived from the use of a wide range of services provided by public psychiatric facilities and/or by voluntary and private agencies. In addition, a large part of the economic impact of schizophrenia is related to the difficulties that patients encounter in finding and keeping paid employment. The introduction of second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs), also defined as atypicals, has increased the therapeutic options available for individuals with schizophrenia. Potential benefits of these agents include a more favourable profile in terms of positive and negative symptoms, less adverse effects and better cognitive functioning than first-generation antipsychotics (FGAs). As a consequence, SGAs might favourably affect the capacity, seriously impaired in schizophrenia, of finding and keeping paid employment. To date, only 13 published studies have investigated the effect of SGA agents on employment and work productivity. Clozapine was studied in eight studies, while both olanzapine and risperidone were studied in three. Clozapine emerged as the SGA with at least some effect on work status. However, all but one clozapine study enrolled only a few individuals and did not adopt an experimental design, making it very difficult to judge the validity and generalisability of findings. Taken together, studies found little benefit, in terms of employment and work productivity, for the use of SGAs compared with FGAs. The evidence available suggests that until data demonstrate a robust effect of newer agents on employment, it remains mandatory for mental health professionals to use the most effective drug treatment together with non-pharmacological interventions, such as vocational rehabilitative programmes nested into models of community psychiatric care, which have proven effect on the capacity of finding and keeping paid employment. This will ensure that the economic impact of schizophrenia is most effectively contained.
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