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Seven years of treatment with quetiapine:a case report


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Seven years of treatment with quetiapine: a case report

Sette anni di trattamento con quetiapina: a case report


Rivista di psichiatria, 2002, 37, 1


Summary. Introduction. We present the case of a 34-year old man who was affected at the age of 20 by a “paranoid-type schizophrenia”. He was treated for years, unsuccessfully, with conventional neuroleptics. Method. At the age of 27 years the patient began treatment with quetiapine, in the context of a research protocol being carried out at the Psychiatric Depart-ment of the University of Turin. Given the positive and indeed curative therapeutic effects of the treatDepart-ment, it was decided to continue the treatment beyond the period of the trial (52 weeks). The quetiapine was first requested from the manufac-turer for compassionate use; later the Ministry of Health was asked to authorize the import of this compound from Great Britain, a country in which quetiapine was already registered for use and available on the market. Finally, the drug also be-came commercially available in Italy (May 2000), so the therapy could be continued and maintained at all times using the same dose regimen. Result and conclusion. The treatment had good results and is still going on.

KEY WORDS: schizophrenia, atypical antipsycotics, quetiapine.

RIASSUNTO. Introduzione. Il presente lavoro riporta il caso di un ragazzo 34enne affetto, sin dall’età di 20 anni, da “schi-zofrenia di tipo paranoide”, già trattato per anni, ma senza successo, con neurolettici tipici. Metodo. All’età di 27 anni il sog-getto è stato sottoposto a trattamento con quetiapina, nell’ambito di un protocollo di ricerca condotto presso la Clinica Psi-chiatrica dell’Università di Torino. Valutati i positivi e risolutivi effetti terapeutici, si è deciso per la prosecuzione di tale te-rapia anche oltre i tempi previsti dalla sperimentazione (52 settimane). Dapprima è stato chiesto l’uso compassionevole del-la quetiapina all’azienda produttrice, successivamente è stata richiesta l’autorizzazione al Ministero deldel-la Sanità per l’impor-tazione del farmaco dalla Gran Bretagna, Paese nel quale la quetiapina era già registrata e regolarmente in commercio. Infi-ne, una volta avvenuta l’introduzione del farmaco anche in Italia (maggio 2000), si è provveduto alla continuazione ed al man-tenimento, tuttora in corso, della terapia in atto, sempre con la medesima posologia. Risultato e conclusione. Il trattamen-to ha avutrattamen-to buoni risultati.

PAROLE CHIAVE: schizofrenia, antipsicotici atipici, quetiapina.


Schizophrenia affects about 1% of the population at

some time in their life


, with the clinical picture being

made up of positive symptoms (such as delusions and

hallucinations), negative symptoms (such as social and

emotional withdrawal, apathy) and cognitive

symp-toms (such as deficits of memory, concentration and

performing functions). The possible deterioration in

personality which occurs in the more severe forms

leads, over time, to a progressive loss of the capacity to

relate to the external world. This has devastating

con-sequences for the individual and his or her family and

creates an onerous financial burden for society



Psychopharmacological treatment of schizophrenia

was introduced in the 1950s when the so-called

“con-ventional” or “typical” antipsychotics became

avail-able. These drugs were an enormous progress in the

treatment of schizophrenia, the management of which

had been based, up till then, almost completely or

in-deed entirely on longterm hospitalization in


E-mail: giuseppemaina@hotmail.com


De Marzi G, et al

Rivista di psichiatria, 2002, 37, 1



P.G. is a 34-year old man, an only child with a positive family history of mental disorders on both the maternal and paternal side (his father had a bipolar disorder and lived in an institute for many years until his death, his mother had a psychotic disorder and committed suicide after a long period of disease).

There were no significant psychopathological episodes in the patient’s personal history. He had a normal child-hood and completed high school education with a good outcome, demonstrating a good level of intelligence and cognitive powers.

His psychopathological disorder first became manifest at the age of 20 years old when he was doing his military ser-vice and was characterized by a dissociative-like episode, accompanied by confusion, spatio-temporal disorientation, loss of appetite and a feeling of being of observed.

He was admitted to the local Psychiatry Department (SPDC), where he presented florid symptoms of audito-ry hallucinations, persecutoaudito-ry delusions, disorganized speech (with frequent changes in train of thought and in-coherence), and blunted affect. The discharge diagnosis was ‘paranoid-type schizophrenia”. He was treated with haloperidol, orfenadrine, promazine and flurazepam, but

these had very little effect on his symptoms and indeed he needed to be readmitted to the SPDC after only one month.

From then on the patient was treated with regimes based on conventional antipsychotic drugs, at standard therapeutic doses. He obtained a partial response in that the ‘positive’ factures of his disorder improved (in par-ticular the hallucinatory component), but the negative symptoms progressively worsened (thought impoverish-ment, apathy, progressive social withdrawal, flattened af-fect, difficulty in undertaking any type of initiative). Fur-thermore, the thought disturbances continued, albeit more sporadically, showing a loosening of associations and persecutory ideation.

Since then the patient has been followed up by the Area Community Psychiatric Service; the partial loss of autonomy and the persistence of the symptoms de-scribed above led the patient to withdraw progressively from social and occupational activities, such that he was housed in a protected hostel and, at the same time, a re-quest was made for him to be recognized as having an 80% permanent reduction in working capacity and thus be entitled to an invalidity pension.

At the age of 27 years the patient was admitted to the Psychiatry Department of the University of Turin with symptoms characterized by a tendency to social with-drawal, poverty of ideation and affect, apathy, blunted ideokinesis, difficulty in undertaking any initiatives, and formal disturbances of thought. He was enrolled in a re-search protocol entitled: “A multicentre, double-blind, randomised, comparison trial of the dose and posology of Seroquel in the treatment of patients with acute exac-erbations of chronic or subchronic schizophrenia”.

The aims of the study were to compare the efficacy of a total daily dose of 450 mg quetiapine administered in two doses (225 mg bid) vs. in three doses (150 mg tid) and vs. 50 mg/die in two doses (25 mg bid), for a period of six weeks, in subjects with acute exacerbations of chronic or subchronic schizophrenia (BPRS at baseline ≥ 27).

The protocol allowed for optional continuation of the quetiapine treatment for 52 weeks (at this point the treatment was no longer double-blind) in those patients who had completed the first phase of the study.

The psychiatric evaluations during the study were made using the BPRS and SANS, while possible neuro-logical side effects were assessed by the AIMS and Simp-son Angus Scale. Evaluations were carried out at base-line and 4, 6, 12, 24, 36 and 52 weeks of treatment.

Already by 4 weeks the patient showed a notable im-provement in symptoms without, however, reaching complete remission of negative symptoms (he was left with a loosening of associations and, at times, a tendency to blunted affect). The results of the evaluations are re-ported in Table 1.

As far as concerns undesired neurological side effects, both the AIMS scale and the Simpson Angus Scale were negative throughout the trial.

Although the above-mentioned drugs provide a

par-tial improvement in the ‘positive’ symptomology of the

disease, thus allowing patients to return to the

commu-nity, they are not equally effective on altering the other

psychopathological feactures of the disease (negative

symptoms, cognitive deficits, concomitant disorders of

mood). Furthermore, the onset of side effects, especially

those affecting the extrapyramidal nervous system, leads

to a notable decrease in therapeutic compliance, with

frequent recurrences, new admissions to hospital and, in

any case, a poor overall quality of life. These drawbacks

of conventional antipsychotics spurred the search for

new drugs which could be used. The second generation

of antipsychotics, introduced in the 1990s and

inappro-priately called “atypical”, increased the therapeutic

ar-mamentarium for the treatment of schizophrenia.

Fur-thermore, besides being shown, both in daily clinical use

and in the majority of controlled clinical trials, to be

more effective and have a better clinical safety profile

(especially in terms of neuromotor and endocrine

toler-ability) than the conventional antipsychotics, these

sec-ond generation drugs have considerable advantages for

the rehabilitation aspects of the disease.

Quetiapine is one of the second generation

antipsy-chotics that has most recently become available


. The

following case report describes a patient treated

con-tinuously with this drugs for seven years.


The patient had a substantial clinical improvement, as-sociated with a marked recovery of socialization, rela-tionships and working capacity. Indeed, it became possi-ble for the patient to be included in a grant-employment scheme run by Turin Commune (as apprentice in the li-brary of the Faculty of Biology of the local University), and to arrange his gradual return to living in his own property, once shared with his parents, in the company of his girlfriend.

This improved clinical situation suggested that the the-raphy be continued beyond the limits laid down by the trial protocol. We, therefore, first asked the manufactur-ing company to provide the drug on the grounds of com-passionate use (as it was not then commercially avail-able), and subsequently asked the Ministery of Health to authorize importation of the drug from a European Community country (Great Britain) in which quetiapine, had in the meantime, been introduced onto the market. Since then the drug has become commercially available also in Italy (May 2000) and so the patient has been able to continue his treatment with quetiapine 400 mg/die at all times. He undergoes regular outpatient follow-up evaluations which show that he has maintained the clini-cal results achieved during the 52 weeks of the trial pro-tocol. His full blood counts, thyroid function and main vi-tal signs are also monitored regularly.

The patient has not required further admission to any public or private neuropsychiatric structure during these years of treatment. He completed the above described employment scheme with success and has continued, al-beit with the difficulties inherent in the situation, manage-ment of his house and cohabitation with his girlfriend.

The patient is receiving treatment with the same dose of quetiapine.

order; its clinical efficacy is influenced not only by the

activity of the drug, but also by its tolerability, the

pa-tient’s willingness to comply with the treatment

sched-ule, the prevention of recurrences, subjective

well-be-ing, the patient’s satisfaction, quality of life and

main-tenance of good social relatioships.

The evaluation of antipsychotic drugs in based on

short periods of observation (6-8 weeks) which

princi-pally allow the effect of the treatment on the

psychot-ic symptoms to be assessed. Extending studies for

pe-riods (e.g. 52 weeks), permits evaluation of whether

the effects on symptoms are maintained and

evalua-tion of some of the initial consequences for the patient’

life. Indeed, only long periods of observation can offer

full information on the overall therapeutic role of a

drug. In fact, the most important advantage of

treat-ment is that of a possible social reintegration of the

pa-tient with recovery of a quality of life similar to that

before the onset of the disorder and in any case

com-patible with a satisfactory degree of autonomy in the

context of functions of daily life.

The interesting point of this case report is that it

cov-ers a 7-year period during which the patient has

re-mained on a stable dose of the antipsychotic drug,

al-lowing correlations to be made between the therapy

used the patient’s clinical history.

In particular, quetiapine has been shown to remain

effective and active for long periods, offering good

control of psychotic symptoms at the same dose that

was effectice in the acute treatment.


1. Meise U, Fleischhaker WW: Perspective on treatment needs in schizophrenia. British Journal of Psychiatry, 1996, 368 (suppl 29), 9-19.

2. Robins CN, Helzer JE, Weissmann MM: Lifetime prevalence of specific psychiatric disorders in three sites. Archives of General Psychiatry, 1984, 41, 949-958.

3. Rice DP, Kelman S, Miller LS: The economic burden of mental illness. Hospital Community Psychiatry, 1992,43,1227-1232. 4. Goldstein JM: Preclinical profile of Seroquel (quetiapine): an

atypical antipsychotic with clozapine-like pharmacology. In Hol-liday SG, Ancill RJ, McEwan GW (Eds) Schizophrenia: breaking down the barriers. Wiley & sons Chichester, 1996.

5. Copolov DL, Link CG, Kowalcyk B: A multicentre, double blind, randomized comparison of quetiapine and haloperidol in schizophrenia. Psychological Medicine 2000, 30, 95-105. 6. Emsley RA, Raniwalla J, Bailey P, Jones AM. Efficacy and

tol-erability of Seroquel compared with haloperidol in schizo-phrenic patients partially responsive to conventional antipsy-chotic treatment. The American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting, May 17-22, 1999, Washington DC.

7. Biondi M, Pancheri P: Seroquel, profilo farmacologico e clinico. Rivista di Psichiatria, 1999, 4 (suppl), 5-48.

Seven years of treatment with quetiapine: a case report

Rivista di psichiatria, 2002, 37, 1


Table 1.Trend in BPRS and SANS at the different evaluations.

Time (weeks) BPRS SANS

0 48 15 4 44 13 6 39 12 12 36 10 24 34 8 36 32 7 52 30 6


Schizophrenia is a serious and disabling disease with

high direct and indirect individual and social costs.

This picture is aggravated by the fact that most

sub-jects with schizophrenia have a chronic disease which

needs long-term management and assistance.

Pharmacological treatment has a particular role in

both the acute and long-term management of the


Table 1.Trend in BPRS and SANS at the different evaluations.


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