Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.
Identify all potential conflicts of interest that might be relevant to your comment.
Conflicts of interest comprise financial interests, activities, and relationships within the past 3 years including but not limited to employment, affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speaker's bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment, or patents planned, pending, or issued.
Err on the side of full disclosure.
If you have no conflicts of interest, check "No potential conflicts of interest" in the box below. The information will be posted with your response.
Not all submitted comments are published. Please see our commenting policy for details.
Nemani K, Conderino S, Marx J, Thorpe LE, Goff DC. Association Between Antipsychotic Use and COVID-19 Mortality Among People With Serious Mental Illness. JAMA Psychiatry. 2021;78(12):1391–1393. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.2503
Schizophrenia spectrum disorders are associated with increased mortality in the setting of COVID-19 infection.1-3 Among several possible explanations for this increased risk is the role of adverse effects of antipsychotic medication, which has not been systematically examined in this population. Our goal was to investigate whether antecedent antipsychotic use was associated with mortality among patients with serious mental illness diagnosed with COVID-19.
We conducted a retrospective cohort study using the New York University Langone Health electronic health record system. Adults diagnosed with COVID-19 infection between March 3, 2020, and February 17, 2021, who had a preexisting diagnosis of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision codes F20, F25, F30, or F31), were included. Individuals with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder were assigned to the schizophrenia spectrum disorder group; those with more than 1 diagnosis were categorized hierarchically, as reported previously.1,4 The exposure of interest was antipsychotic use at COVID-19 diagnosis. Electronic health records were reviewed to verify the accuracy of prescriptions; patients with antipsychotic discontinuation or nonadherence were assigned to the unexposed group. The primary end point was death within 60 days of COVID-19 diagnosis. The following covariates were considered based on their known or hypothesized association with the outcome and potential to confound the association of interest: sociodemographic characteristics, including patient-reported race (Asian, Black, White, or other race [including Native American, multiple races, and any race not included in a list of more than 40 races], and unknown race) and ethnicity (Hispanic [Chicano/Chicana, Costa Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Guatemalan, Hispanic/Latino, Honduran, Mexican, Mexican American, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, South American, Spaniard] or non-Hispanic), age, and insurance type; psychiatric diagnosis; medical comorbidities, including body mass index; and smoking status (Table 1). The study was approved by the institutional review board of the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, with a waiver of informed consent granted based on the determination that there was no more than minimal risk to participants. The final logistic regression model assessed for an association between antipsychotic exposure and mortality using odds ratios and 95% CIs, adjusting for covariates that differed between groups with 2-tailed testing. Covariates of borderline statistical significance (P < .10) were included in the final models because of the limited sample size. Analyses were conducted using SAS statistical software, version 9.4 (SAS Institute Inc).
A total of 464 patients (mean [SD] age, 53 [17.1] years; 239 men [51.5%] and 225 women [48.5%]) were included, of which 196 (42.2%) were treated with antipsychotic medication. Forty-one patients (8.8%) died. The 60-day case fatality rate among patients with a schizophrenia spectrum disorder (n = 182) was 13.7%, and the case fatality rate among patients with bipolar disorder (n = 282) was 5.7%. Age, body mass index, insurance type, and psychiatric diagnosis differed between groups and were included in the fully adjusted model (Table 2). Antipsychotic treatment was not significantly associated with mortality (odds ratio, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.48-2.08; P = .99). However, a diagnosis of a schizophrenia spectrum disorder was associated with a near 3-fold increased risk of mortality compared with bipolar disorder (odds ratio, 2.88; 95% CI, 1.36-6.11; P = .01).
In this cohort study of adults with serious mental illness diagnosed with COVID-19 infection in a New York City medical system, antipsychotic treatment was not associated with an increased risk of mortality.
A growing body of evidence has suggested that people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders may have an increased risk of fatal illness after COVID-19 infection, but the mechanism is not clear. An association between antipsychotic medication and increased risk of COVID-19 mortality has been reported in population-based studies,5,6 but these studies did not take psychiatric diagnosis into account. We did not observe an association between antipsychotic use and mortality in this cohort of adults with serious mental illness. Study limitations include the inability to validate psychiatric diagnoses and capture deaths that were not documented in the electronic health record. The limited sample size precluded analysis of individual antipsychotic medications, which may differ in their associated effects. Further research is needed to understand what underlies increased mortality risk in this population to address worsening health disparities.
Accepted for Publication: July 19, 2021.
Published Online: September 22, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.2503
Corresponding Author: Donald C. Goff, MD, Department of Psychiatry, New York University Langone Medical Center, One Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016 (email@example.com).
Author Contributions: Drs Nemani and Goff had full access to all the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Concept and design: Nemani, Thorpe, Goff.
Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: All authors.
Drafting of the manuscript: Nemani, Marx.
Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Nemani, Conderino, Thorpe, Goff.
Statistical analysis: Nemani, Conderino, Thorpe.
Administrative, technical, or material support: Marx, Goff.
Supervision: Nemani, Thorpe, Goff.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.