Schizophrenia is a highly prevalent and chronic disorder that comprises a wide range of symptomatology. Asenapine is a recently developed atypical antipsychotic that is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of schizophrenia.
To determine the clinical effects of asenapine for adults with schizophrenia or other schizophrenia-like disorders by comparing it with placebo.
We searched the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group's Trials Register (July 04, 2014) which is based on regular searches of MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, BIOSIS, AMED, PubMed, PsycINFO, and registries of clinical trials. There are no language, date, document type, or publication status limitation for inclusion of records into the register. We inspected references of all included studies for further relevant studies.
Our review includes randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing asenapine with placebo in adults (however defined) with schizophrenia or related disorders, including schizophreniform disorder, schizoaffective disorder and delusional disorder, again, by any means of diagnosis.
We inspected citations from the searches and identified relevant abstracts, and extracted data from all included studies. For binary data we calculated risk ratio (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI), and for continuous data we calculated mean differences (MD). We used the GRADE approach to produce a 'Summary of findings' table which included our outcomes of interest, where possible. We used a fixed-effect model for our analyses.
We obtained and scrutinised 41 potentially relevant records, and from these we could include only six trials (n = 1835). Five of the six trials had high risk of attrition bias and all trials were sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. Results showed a clinically important change in global state (1 RCT, n = 336, RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.97, low-quality evidence) and mental state (1 RCT, n = 336, RR 0.72, 95% CI 0.59 to 0.86, very low-quality evidence) at short-term amongst people receiving asenapine. People receiving asenapine demonstrated significant reductions in negative symptoms (1 RCT, n = 336, MD -1.10, 95% CI -2.29 to 0.09, very low-quality evidence) at short-term. Individuals receiving asenapine demonstrated significantly fewer incidents of serious adverse effects (1 RCT, n = 386, RR 0.29, 95% CI 0.14 to 0.63, very low-quality evidence) at medium-term. There was no clear difference in people discontinuing the study for any reason between asenapine and placebo at short-term (5 RCTs, n = 1046, RR 0.91, 95% CI 0.80 to 1.04, very low-quality evidence). No trial reported data for extrapyramidal symptoms or costs.
There is some, albeit preliminary, evidence that asenapine provides an improvement in positive, negative, and depressive symptoms, whilst minimising the risk of adverse effects. However due to the low-quality and limited quantity of evidence, it remains difficult to recommend the use of asenapine for people with schizophrenia. We identify a need for large-scale, longer-term, better-designed and conducted randomised controlled trials investigating the clinical effects and safety of asenapine.