The PRIME North America randomized double-blind clinical trial of olanzapine versus placebo in patients at risk of being prodromally symptomatic for psychosis. II. Baseline characteristics of the "prodromal" sample.
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The first double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial of an atypical neuroleptic medication is being conducted in symptomatic treatment-seeking patients meeting new diagnostic criteria for a putative prodromal syndrome. This identifies them as being at high risk for developing psychosis in the near future. The study aims include prevention of psychosis onset and disability, as well as palliation of ongoing symptomatology. The purpose of this report is to describe the study's "prodromally symptomatic" sample at baseline, i.e., at intake immediately prior to randomization and prior to receiving study medication. Sixty treatment-seeking patients meeting prodromal inclusion criteria were recruited across four sites: New Haven, CT (n=39), Toronto, Ontario (n=9), Calgary, Alberta (n=6), and Chapel Hill, NC (n=6). The sample was young (median age 16), largely male (65%), and came from families with high titers of serious mental illness (44%). Most patients (93%) met criteria for the Attenuated Positive Symptom (APS) prodromal syndrome and presented with significant but nonpsychotic suspiciousness, perceptual aberrations, unusual thought content, and conceptual disorganization. They presented with minimal to mild affective symptoms and substance use/abuse, but they were quite functionally compromised (mean Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score=42). The prodromal sample was compared with other clinical-trial samples of adolescent depression, adolescent mania, and first episode schizophrenia. Prodromal patients proved not to be depressed or manic. They were less severely ill than untreated first episode schizophrenia but more severely ill than treated first episode schizophrenia. While not psychotically disabled, these patients nevertheless present with a clinical syndrome. Subsequent reports will detail the effects of drug versus placebo on prodromal symptoms, neuropsychological profile, and the rate of conversion to psychosis.