Dopaminergic dysfunction is thought to be central to schizophrenia symptomatology. Previous meta-analyses of prodopaminergic drugs in schizophrenia have important limitations, and also did not include dopamine D2/D3 partial agonists. We investigated the effect of medications which increase dopamine signalling on schizophrenia symptoms by meta-analysing double-blind, placebo-controlled RCTs. 59 RCTs were included: 29 of prodopaminergic treatments, 30 of partial agonists. Partial agonists were significantly superior to placebo against positive (SMD=−0.33,p = 1.2 ×10-17), negative (SMD=−0.29,p = 2.2 × 10-31) and total symptoms (SMD =−0.39,p = 1.7 × 10-30) in schizophrenia. There were no significant differences between pooled pro-dopaminergic drugs and placebo in any symptom domain. In subgroup analysis of five studies where patients were selected for negative symptom severity, ar/modafinil was superior to placebo against negative symptoms (SMD=−0.34,p = 0.037). These data favour the clinical use of partial agonists for negative symptoms in schizophrenia, with clinically meaningful effect sizes. Our findings also suggest a benefit for ar/modafinil in patients with predominant negative symptoms. Future trials of other prodopaminergic therapies and dopamine partial agonists in patients with predominant negative symptoms are warranted.
- Negative symptoms
- Partial agonism