Unmet needs with antipsychotic treatment in schizophrenia and bipolar I disorder: patient perspectives from qualitative focus groups

Michael J. Doane, Kimberly Raymond, Cory Saucier, Leona Bessonova, Amy K. O’Sullivan, Michelle K. White, April Mitchell Foster, Kaitlin LaGasse, Julia Carpenter-Conlin, Martha Sajatovic, Dawn I. Velligan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar I disorder (BD-I) are chronic mental health disorders often treated with antipsychotic medications. This qualitative study sought to better understand disease burden and treatment experiences with oral antipsychotic medications in participants living with SZ or BD-I. Methods: Six 90-min focus groups were conducted with participants diagnosed with SZ or BD-I. Trained moderators facilitated discussions using a semistructured guide. Participants described symptoms, impacts of disease, and experiences with oral antipsychotic medications, whether favourable or unfavourable. Results: Among participants with SZ (n = 15; 3 groups, 5 per group), 53% were male and 33% were white, with a mean of 18.6 years since diagnosis. Of participants with BD-I (n = 24; 3 groups, 8 per group), 33% were male and 42% were white, with a mean of 13.0 years since diagnosis. Participants described numerous symptoms of their illnesses that impacted relationships and daily life, including effects on emotional health, the ability to work, and encounters with law enforcement. Previous antipsychotic medications were deemed effective by 14/15 (93%) participants with SZ and 12/16 (75%) participants with BD-I. Most participants with SZ (13/15; 87%) or with BD-I (16/24; 67%) reported discontinuing their antipsychotic medication at some point. Side effects were a common reason for discontinuing or switching medications for participants with SZ (8/15; 53%) and for those with BD-I (11/24; 46%). The most common side effects reported in both cohorts were weight gain, drowsiness, sexual problems, and neurologic symptoms. Side effects negatively affected quality of life, leading to serious health problems and issues with self-esteem. Conclusions: People living with SZ or BD-I cited a range of favourable and unfavourable experiences with oral antipsychotic medications. Most participants reported that their antipsychotics were effective at controlling their symptoms, but multiple side effects impacted their quality of life, caused additional serious health problems, and often led to discontinuation of or switching antipsychotics. Findings from this study contribute to a better understanding of patients’ experiences with antipsychotics and highlight a need for new medications with favourable benefit/risk profiles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number245
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Antipsychotics
  • Drug side effects
  • Focus groups
  • Patient involvement
  • Patient preference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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