Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: There is debate about the generalisability of results from randomised clinical trials (RCTs) to real-world settings. Studying outcomes of treatments for schizophrenia can shed light on this issue and inform treatment guidelines. We therefore compared the efficacy and effectiveness of antipsychotics for relapse prevention in schizophrenia and estimated overall treatment effects using all available RCT and real-world evidence. METHODS: We conducted network meta-analyses using individual participant data from Swedish and Finnish national registries and aggregate data from RCTs. The target population was adults (age >18 and <65 years) with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder with stabilised symptoms. We analysed each registry separately to obtain hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% CIs for relapse within 6 months post-antipsychotic initiation as our main outcome. Interventions studied were antipsychotics, no antipsychotic use, and placebo. We compared HRs versus a reference drug (oral haloperidol) between registries, and between registry individuals who would be eligible and ineligible for RCTs, using the ratio of HRs. We synthesised evidence using network meta-analysis and compared results from our network meta-analysis of real-world data with our network meta-analysis of RCT data, including oral versus long-acting injectable (LAI) formulations. Finally, we conducted a joint real-world and RCT network meta-analysis. FINDINGS: We included 90 469 individuals from the Swedish and Finnish registries (mean age 45·9 [SD 14·6] years; 43 025 [47·5%] women and 47 467 [52·5%] men, ethnicity data unavailable) and 10 091 individuals from 30 RCTs (mean age 39·6 years [SD 11·7]; 3724 [36·9%] women and 6367 [63·1%] men, 6022 White [59·7%]). We found good agreement in effectiveness of antipsychotics between Swedish and Finnish registries (HR ratio 0·97, 95% CI 0·88-1·08). Drug effectiveness versus no antipsychotic was larger in RCT-eligible than RCT-ineligible individuals (HR ratio 1·40 [1·24-1·59]). Efficacy versus placebo in RCTs was larger than effectiveness versus no antipsychotic in real-world (HR ratio 2·58 [2·02-3·30]). We found no evidence of differences between effectiveness and efficacy for between-drug comparisons (HR ratio vs oral haloperidol 1·17 [0·83-1·65], where HR ratio >1 means superior effectiveness in real-world to RCTs), except for LAI versus oral comparisons (HR ratio 0·73 [0·53-0·99], indicating superior effectiveness in real-world data relative to RCTs). The real-world network meta-analysis showed clozapine was most effective, followed by olanzapine LAI. The RCT network meta-analysis exhibited heterogeneity and inconsistency. The joint real-world and RCT network meta-analysis identified olanzapine as the most efficacious antipsychotic amongst those present in both RCTs and the real world registries. INTERPRETATION: LAI antipsychotics perform slightly better in the real world than according to RCTs. Otherwise, RCT evidence was in line with real-world evidence for most between-drug comparisons, but RCTs might overestimate effectiveness of antipsychotics observed in routine care settings. Our results further the understanding of the generalisability of RCT findings to clinical practice and can inform preferential prescribing guidelines. FUNDING: None.

Original publication




Journal article


Lancet Psychiatry

Publication Date





102 - 111


Adult, Aged, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Antipsychotic Agents, Benzodiazepines, Haloperidol, Network Meta-Analysis, Olanzapine, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Risperidone, Schizophrenia