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National Institutes of Health

Director’s Update
December 1, 2006

NIMH Perspective on Antipsychotic Reimbursement: Using Results from the CATIE Cost Effectiveness Study

The recent publication (December 1, 2006, American Journal of Psychiatry) of the cost-effectiveness results from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)-funded Clinical Antipsychotic Trials in Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE)has raised questions among advocates, families, and clinicians about reimbursement policies for antipsychotic medications.

Antipsychotics have now become the fourth largest group of medications prescribed in the United States, with a collective cost expected to surge past $10 billion this year. About 80 percent of the prescriptions for antipsychotics are paid via the public sector. The new atypical medications, representing 90 percent of the current market, are approximately 10 times the cost of the older conventional antipsychotics.

In a report in the September 22, 2005, New England Journal of Medicine, the CATIE research team compared discontinuation rates with four atypical antipsychotics (olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone, ziprasidone) and one older conventional antipsychotic (perphenazine). The results demonstrated few differences overall among the various medications. The older medication, perphenazine, was as well tolerated as the newer compounds and as effective as three of the four newer drugs. The fourth compound, olanzapine, was slightly better than all the others in terms of discontinuation and hospitalization rates but was also associated with higher rates of weight gain and metabolic side effects.

The December 1, 2006 study analyzed the economic implications of the CATIE results and found that, because perphenazine was as effective overall and less expensive, the older antipsychotic medications such as perphenazine still have a valuable role in treating schizophrenia. The results should encourage doctors to reconsider the use of these older medications as another choice for patients with schizophrenia. This study should help expand the current list of medications most commonly used for schizophrenia, rather than restrict or reduce access to any of the antipsychotic medications. NIMH believes that this is important for the following reasons:

Taking all these points into consideration, NIMH holds that families and physicians need more, not fewer, choices for addressing schizophrenia. A one-size-fits-all approach for treating schizophrenia could be harmful, essentially turning the clock back 40 years to an era when conventional antipsychotics were the only medications available for patients with this chronic, disabling disorder affecting 3.2 million Americans.