Objective: Antipsychotic treatment strategy for the maintenance phase of schizophrenia has been inconsistent in the literature. The purpose of this systematic review is to overview recommendations in various guidelines and algorithms. Methods: The guidelines and algorithms for schizophrenia that were published or updated in English after 2000 were searched, using Medline, PubMed, EMBASE, and PsycINFO with the following key words: guideline, algorithm, schizophrenia, and psychosis (last search: July 2011). The reference lists of the relevant reports were also examined. Results: Fourteen guidelines and algorithms were identified; only five of them clearly defined terms about the maintenance phase and treatment. Ten of 11 guidelines and algorithms did not recommend discontinuation of antipsychotics within five years; six of them partially recommended antipsychotic discontinuation for patients with first-episode schizophrenia exclusive. All nine guidelines and algorithms that referred to intermittent or targeted antipsychotic strategy endorsed against this strategy. Although being a hot topic of controversy, dose reduction of antipsychotics or lower dose therapy in the maintenance phase compared to the acute dosage is not recommended on the whole concerning atypical antipsychotics, whereas dose reduction appears sometimes considered acceptable for typical antipsychotics. Conclusion: What constitutes maintenance phase and its treatment in schizophrenia has not yet been established in the literature. While discontinuation and intermittent or targeted strategies are not generally recommended, there is controversy regarding dose reduction or lower dose therapy, especially with regards to atypical antipsychotics. Further evidence is needed in order to derive treatment recommendations on antipsychotics in this critical treatment phase of schizophrenia.
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