Fluphenazine is one of the first drugs to be classed as an 'antipsychotic' and has been widely available for five decades.
To compare the effects of oral fluphenazine with placebo for the treatment of schizophrenia. To evaluate any available economic studies and value outcome data.
We searched the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group's Trials Register (23 July 2013, 23 December 2014, 9 November 2016 and 28 December 2017 ) which is based on regular searches of CINAHL, BIOSIS, AMED, EMBASE, PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and registries of clinical trials. There is no language, date, document type, or publication status limitations for inclusion of records in the register.
We sought all randomised controlled trials comparing oral fluphenazine with placebo relevant to people with schizophrenia. Primary outcomes of interest were global state and adverse effects.
For the effects of interventions, a review team inspected citations and abstracts independently, ordered papers and re-inspected and quality assessed trials. We extracted data independently. Dichotomous data were analysed using fixed-effect risk ratio (RR) and the 95% confidence interval (CI). Continuous data were excluded if more than 50% of people were lost to follow-up, but, where possible, mean differences (MD) were calculated. Economic studies were searched and reliably selected by an economic review team to provide an economic summary of available data. Where no relevant economic studies were eligible for inclusion, the economic review team valued the already-included effectiveness outcome data to provide a rudimentary economic summary.
From over 1200 electronic records of 415 studies identified by our initial search and this updated search, we excluded 48 potentially relevant studies and included seven trials published between 1964 and 1999 that randomised 439 (mostly adult participants). No new included trials were identified for this review update. Compared with placebo, global state outcomes of 'not improved or worsened' were not significantly different in the medium term in one small study (n = 50, 1 RCT, RR 1.12 CI 0.79 to 1.58, very low quality of evidence). The risk of relapse in the long term was greater in two small studies in people receiving placebo (n = 86, 2 RCTs, RR 0.39 CI 0.05 to 3.31, very low quality of evidence), however with high degree of heterogeneity in the results. Only one person allocated fluphenazine was reported in the same small study to have died on long-term follow-up (n = 50, 1 RCT, RR 2.38 CI 0.10 to 55.72, low quality of evidence). Short-term extrapyramidal adverse effects were significantly more frequent with fluphenazine compared to placebo in two other studies for the outcomes of akathisia (n = 227, 2 RCTs, RR 3.43 CI 1.23 to 9.56, moderate quality of evidence) and rigidity (n = 227, 2 RCTs, RR 3.54 CI 1.76 to 7.14, moderate quality of evidence). For economic outcomes, we valued outcomes for relapse and presented them in additional tables.
The findings in this review confirm much that clinicians and recipients of care already know, but they provide quantification to support clinical impression. Fluphenazine's global position as an effective treatment for psychoses is not threatened by the outcome of this review. However, fluphenazine is an imperfect treatment and if accessible, other inexpensive drugs less associated with adverse effects may be an equally effective choice for people with schizophrenia.