Practical considerations for managing breakthrough psychosis and symptomatic worsening in patients with schizophrenia on long-acting injectable antipsychotics

Christoph U. Correll, Jennifer Kern Sliwa, Dean M. Najarian, Stephen R. Saklad

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    1 Scopus citations


    With more long-acting injectable (LAI) antipsychotics available for treating schizophrenia, each with variable durations of action (2 weeks to 3 months), it is important to have clear management strategies for patients developing breakthrough psychotic symptoms or experiencing symptomatic worsening on LAIs. However, no treatment guidelines or clinical practice pathways exist; health-care providers must rely on their own clinical judgment to manage these patients. This article provides practical recommendations - based on a framework of clinical, pharmacokinetic, and dosing considerations - to guide clinicians' decisions regarding management of breakthrough psychotic symptoms. Management options include ruling out/addressing medical illness or substance abuse/misuse as a contributing factor, addressing stressors, optimizing nonpharmacologic treatments, treating medical/psychiatric comorbidities, ensuring proper LAI administration technique, addressing missed LAI doses or lack of steady-state attainment, and increasing LAI dose directly or indirectly by shortening the injection interval (off-label). If these strategies do not work sufficiently with frequent monitoring, the LAI could be supplemented with a low dose of the corresponding oral formulation for fast symptom control (off-label). However, caution should be exercised with this strategy, because data on the safety of concomitant use of LAI and oral antipsychotics (OAPs) are limited, especially over extended periods. If symptoms abate, therapy optimization could be continued and slow discontinuation of the OAP could be considered. For persistent/worsening symptoms, the OAP should be increased to optimum effective dose while intensifying the initial steps used before it was added. If this fails, switching the OAP or LAI could be considered. We believe that these strategies will help clinicians manage breakthrough psychotic symptoms during LAI treatment and improve overall outcomes among those who can benefit from LAIs.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)354-370
    Number of pages17
    JournalCNS spectrums
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


    • Antipsychotic
    • Key words:
    • breakthrough symptoms
    • long-acting injectable
    • management strategy
    • schizophrenia
    • symptomatic worsening

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Clinical Neurology
    • Psychiatry and Mental health


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