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Support in coming off antipsychotics

The Intellectual Disability Medicine research group of Erasmus MC’s department of General Practice is going to conduct a study to determine how intellectually disabled people can come off antipsychotic drugs.

Dederieke FestenConsortium
The study is being funded by ZonMw (The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development) and will be led by Dr. Dederieke Festen (photo) of the department of General Practice. The study will be conducted together with the GOUD consortium, a collaborative effort of the Intellectual Disability Medicine Chair and three care institutions for intellectually disabled people: Abrona, Amarant group and the Ipse de Bruggen Foundation.

Good use
The grant of  € 512,341 is being awarded as part of the GGG Program (good use of medicines), which focuses on the more effective, safer, and more efficient use of drugs. Earlier this week, it was announced that an Internal Medicine team and the Pharmacy also received € 500,000 as part of the GGG Program.

Festen explains: "Antipsychotic drugs are often prescribed off-label, i.e. outside the limits of registered indications, for long periods to people with intellectual disabilities.  They are prescribed for  behavioral problems, such as aggression or self-mutilation (self-harm). There is no evidence that these drugs are effective. It has however been shown that there are major side effects, such as increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and movement disorders. The side effects are often reversible after coming off the antipsychotic drugs. However, many people fail to come off the drugs. Our study focuses on why this is so difficult for many people.”

In the study, two groups of chronic antipsychotic users will be compared with each other for a period of 40 weeks. The dose of antipsychotics in one group will be gradually reduced, while in the control group the dose will remain the same. Festen: "Because the study will be a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, participants, companions, therapists, and researchers will not know in which group they are. The dropout rate in both groups will be monitored, and in addition a careful diagnosis of behavioral problems, sleep problems, psychiatric problems, and the occurrence of side effects and withdrawal symptoms will be made for all participants."

Date published: 20 July 2017.

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