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INTRODUCTION: Early-onset schizophrenia (EOS) is a serious debilitating disorder with considerable morbidity and a reduced life expectancy; therefore, early diagnosis and effective treatments are particularly important. Negative symptoms are more prominent in adolescents and children (compared with adults), and are key predictors of worse functional and clinical outcomes in EOS. Therefore, this study aimed to explore the relative efficacy of antipsychotics used in the treatment of EOS, with a focus on studies reporting effectiveness using the Positive and Negative Syndrome scale (PANSS), a scale that includes an overall symptom measure, in addition to separate subscales for positive and, importantly, negative symptoms. METHODS: A systematic literature review was conducted using the MEDLINE and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials databases to identify trials conducted in children and adolescents with schizophrenia, and symptom control was reported using the PANSS. A Bayesian random-effects network meta-analysis was performed, synthesising data for a number of outcomes, including mean change from baseline in PANSS scores, treatment discontinuation and weight gain. RESULTS: Eleven studies were included in the evidence synthesis, comprising 1714 patients across eight active interventions (aripiprazole, haloperidol, molindone, olanzapine, paliperidone, quetiapine, risperidone and ziprasidone) and placebo. All treatments showed a greater reduction in total PANSS scores vs placebo; however, only three interventions (molindone, olanzapine and risperidone) were associated with a statistically significant reduction in total PANSS scores at 6 weeks vs placebo. Haloperidol had the greatest reduction vs placebo; however, this result was not statistically significant [mean difference, -15.6, 95% credible interval (-35.4, 4.1)]. Haloperidol, olanzapine and risperidone showed a statistically significant reduction in positive PANSS scores vs placebo; however, whilst all interventions showed a trend of reduction in negative PANSS scores vs placebo, no comparisons were statistically significant. CONCLUSIONS: Many of the treatments are efficacious in controlling symptoms, and all showed a trend of superiority vs placebo for total, positive and negative PANSS scores, although only olanzapine and risperidone yielded statistically significant results vs placebo for both total and positive PANSS scores. Varying results for discontinuation and weight gain demonstrate a need to balance efficacy with side-effect profiles.

Original publication




Journal article


CNS Drugs

Publication Date





27 - 39


Adolescent, Antipsychotic Agents, Child, Humans, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Schizophrenia, Schizophrenic Psychology, Treatment Outcome