For patients with schizophrenia, relapse is a recurring feature of disease progression, often resulting in substantial negative impacts for the individual. Although a patient’s relapse history (specifically the number of prior relapses) has been identified as a strong risk factor for future relapse, this relationship has not yet been meticulously quantified. The objective of this study was to use real-world data from Sweden to quantify the relationship of time to relapse in schizophrenia with a patient’s history of prior relapses.
Data from the Swedish National Patient Register and Swedish Prescribed Drug Register were used to study relapse in patients with schizophrenia with a first diagnosis recorded from 2006–2015, using proxy definitions of relapse. The primary proxy defined relapse as a psychiatric hospitalisation of ≥7 days’ duration. Hazard ratios (HRs) were calculated for risk of each subsequent relapse, and Aalen-Johansen estimators were used to estimate time to next relapse.
2,994 patients were included, and 5,820 relapse episodes were identified using the primary proxy. As the number of previous relapses increased, there was a general trend of decreasing estimated time between relapses. Within 1.52 years of follow-up, 50% of patients with no history of relapse were estimated to have suffered their first relapse episode. 50% of patients with one prior relapse were estimated to have a second relapse within 1.23 years (HR: 1.84 [1.71–1.99]) and time to next relapse further decreased to 0.89 years (HR: 2.77 [2.53–3.03]) and 0.22 years (HR: 18.65 [15.42–22.56]) for 50% of patients with two or ten prior relapses, respectively. Supplementary analyses using different inclusion/exclusion criteria for the study population and redefined proxies of relapse reflected the pattern observed with the primary analyses of a higher number of prior relapses linked with increased risk of/reduced estimated time to the next relapse.
The results suggested a trend of accelerating disease progression in schizophrenia, each relapse episode predisposing an individual to the next within a shorter time period. These results emphasise the importance of providing early, effective, and tolerable treatments that better meet a patient’s individual needs.