UMMS Affiliation

Psychotic Disorders Program; Department of Psychiatry

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Mental and Social Health | Mental Disorders | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


Accumulated studies have investigated pharmacological interventions for first-episode schizophrenia (FES) patients. However, studies on subsequent treatment steps, which are essential to guide clinicians, are largely missing. This Sequential Multiple-Assignment Randomized Trials comparing Antipsychotic Treatments (SMART-CAT) program intends to evaluate the effectiveness of commonly used antipsychotic drugs in FES patients. The major goals of this study are to examine: 1) what would be the optimal subsequent sequential treatment if the first antipsychotic drug failed; 2) whether clozapine could be used in those first-trial failed and have superior efficacy compared to other atypical antipsychotics. In this article we will report the detail protocol of SMART-CAT. The SMART-CAT is a randomized controlled clinical multicenter trial in which 9 institutions in China will participate. A total of 720 FES patients will be enrolled and followed up for 12 months in this study. The trial includes three treatment phases (each phase lasting for 8 weeks) and a naturalistic follow-up phase; participants who do well on an assigned treatment will remain on that treatment for the duration of the 12-month treatment period, while non-responders will move to the next phase of the study to receive a new treatment. Phase 1 is a randomized controlled trial; patients will be randomly assigned to one of the treatments with oral olanzapine, risperidone, amisulpride, aripiprazole or perphenazine. Subjects who fail to respond after 8 weeks will enter the phase 2 randomization. Phase 2 is an equipoise-stratified randomization trial, and patients will be randomly assigned to oral olanzapine, amisulpride or clozapine for 8 weeks. Subjects who fail to respond after phase 2 will enter an open label trial (phase 3); patients who receive clozapine in phase 2 and fail to respond will be assigned to an extended clozapine treatment or modified electroconvulsive therapy add-on therapy (Phase 3A). Patients who were not assigned to clozapine in phase 2 will be assigned to treatment with clozapine or another SGAs not previously used in phase 1 and 2 (Phase 3B). The primary outcome for the treatment phase is the treatment efficacy rate, which is defined as at least 40% reduction in Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) total score. We hypothesize that clozapine is more therapeutically effective than any other SGAs to patients who failed to meet efficacy criteria in Phase 1, and earlier treatment with clozapine can improve the functional outcomes of schizophrenia patients. As for the naturalistic follow-up phase, time to all-cause treatment failure, marked by its discontinuation is selected as the primary outcome, since it reflects both efficacy and side effects. The all-cause discontinuation is defined as discontinuing for any reasons, including poor efficacy, intolerance of adverse reactions, poor compliance and other reasons. The results of the SMART-CAT trial will provide evidence for the selection of antipsychotics in FES patients who fail to respond to the first trial of an antipsychotic drug. It will also provide evidence for the efficacy and safety of using clozapine in the early phase of schizophrenia treatment by comparing with other SGAs. The study is based on the combination of sequential therapy and dynamic therapy, which can be more suitable to assess the effectiveness of treatment options in the real-world clinical setting. As a result, we hope that this study can provide guidance for an optimal treatment algorithm in first-episode schizophrenia patients. Trial registration: ID NCT03510325 in


Antipsychotic drugs, Effectiveness, First-episode, Schizophrenia, Sequential Multiple-Assignment Randomized Trials

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© 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

DOI of Published Version



Li X, Guo X, Fan X, Feng T, Wang C, Yao Z, Xu X, Chen Z, Wang H, Xie S, He J, Zhuo K, Xiang Q, Cen H, Wang J, Smith RC, Jin H, Keshavan MS, Marder SR, Davis JM, Jiang K, Xu Y, Liu D. Sequential Multiple-Assignment Randomized Trials to Compare Antipsychotic Treatments (SMART-CAT) in first-episode schizophrenia patients: Rationale and trial design. Schizophr Res. 2020 Dec 2:S0920-9964(20)30529-6. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2020.11.010. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33279374. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Schizophrenia research


Full author list omitted for brevity. For the full list of authors, see article.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.