Objective: Our aim was to assess the impact of six recommendations regarding drug prescription on the clinical practices of French psychiatrists. The recommendations were part of the conclusions of a consensus conference entitled “Long-term therapy of schizophrenia” (Paris, January 1994).
Methods: The impact of the conference was assessed on the basis of awareness of the existence of the conference, knowledge of its conclusions, and actual changes in clinical practice. We performed: a) a survey of a representative sample of 396 psychiatrists 2 years after the conference; and b) an analysis of changes in drug prescriptions in a cohort of 2,407 patients with schizophrenia under treatment at the time of the conference.
Results: Overall, 78% of interviewed psychiatrists were aware of the existence of the conference and 70% of its conclusions. Declared prescription practices conformed with conference conclusions about 60% (10%–95%) of the time. No difference in practices was noted between psychiatrists who were aware of the recommendations and those who were not. Single neuroleptic prescriptions increased in the cohort study in line with the main conference recommendation. The increase was small, but significant from 51.1% to 56.4%, and mainly concerned patients recently put on treatment. Contrary to recommendations, prescriptions of anticholinergics plus neuroleptics inexplicably rose from 48.2% to 54.3%.
Conclusion: Small changes in prescription habits occurred in the wake of the consensus conference, but we cannot really ascribe them to a direct impact of the conference. Despite the great pains we took in disseminating the conclusions of the conference as widely as possible, it is clear that a more forceful action plan (e.g., including continuous medical education) is required.