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Generic name: aripiprazole (ay ri PIP ray zole), aripiprazole lauroxil (law rox il)
All FDA black box warnings are at the end of this fact sheet. Please review before taking this medication.
Aripiprazole is a medication that works in the brain to treat schizophrenia. It is also known as a second generation antipsychotic (SGA) or atypical antipsychotic. Aripiprazole rebalances dopamine and serotonin to improve thinking, mood, and behavior.
Symptoms of schizophrenia include:
Aripiprazole may help some or all of these symptoms.
Aripiprazole is also FDA approved for the following indications:
This medication sheet will focus primarily on schizophrenia. Find more information about bipolar disorder, depression and autism spectrum disorders here.
Aripiprazole may also be helpful when prescribed “off-label” for borderline personality disorder or drug-induced hyperprolactinemia (elevated prolactin levels caused by other antipsychotics). “Off-label” means that it hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for this condition. Your mental health provider should justify his or her thinking in recommending an “off-label” treatment. They should be clear about the limits of the research around that medication and if there are any other options.
Schizophrenia requires long-term treatment. Do not stop taking aripiprazole, even when you feel better. With input from you, your health care provider will assess how long you will need to take the medicine.
Missing doses of aripiprazole may increase your risk for a relapse in your symptoms. Do not stop taking aripiprazole or change your dose without talking to with your healthcare provider first. For aripiprazole to work properly, it should be taken every day as ordered by your healthcare provider.
If you are planning on becoming pregnant, notify your healthcare provider to best manage your medications. People living with schizophrenia who wish to become pregnant face important decisions. This is a complex decision since untreated schizophrenia has risks to the fetus, as well as the mother. It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of treatment with your doctor and caregivers.
Antipsychotic use during the third trimester of pregnancy has a risk for abnormal muscle movements (extrapyramidal symptoms [EPS]) and/or withdrawal symptoms in newborns following delivery. Symptoms in the newborn may include agitation, feeding disorder, hypertonia, hypotonia, respiratory distress, somnolence, and tremor; these effects may be self-limiting or require hospitalization.
In general, infants exposed to SGAs via breast milk should be monitored weekly for the first month of exposure for symptoms, such as appetite changes, insomnia, irritability, or lethargy.
Caution is advised with breastfeeding since aripiprazole does pass into breast milk.
Aripiprazole tablets and suspension are usually taken 1 time per day with or without food. Typically, patients begin at a low dose of medicine and the dose is increased slowly over several weeks.
The oral dose aripiprazole usually ranges from 2 mg to 30 mg taken once daily. The dose of aripiprazole maintena extended-release injection ranges from 300 mg to 400 mg given once monthly; the dose of aripiprazole lauroxil extended-release injection ranges from 441 mg to 1064 mg — depending on the dose, it is given once per month, every 6 weeks, or every 2 months. Aripiprazole maintena requires a two-week oral medication overlap; aripiprazole lauroxil requires a three-week oral overlap. Aripiprazole lauroxil Initio is typically given after an oral dose of aripiprazole along with an aripiprazole lauroxil injection – this allows for a one-day initiation and does not require further oral overlap. Only your healthcare provider can determine the correct formulation and dose for you.
Use a calendar, pillbox, alarm clock, or cell phone alert to help you remember to take your medication. You may also ask a family member or a friend to remind you or check in with you to be sure you are taking your medication.
If you miss a dose of aripiprazole, take it as soon as you remember, unless it is closer to the time of your next dose. Do not double your next dose or take more than what is prescribed. If you miss an injection, call your doctor or pharmacist right away. Discuss this with your healthcare provider.
Avoid drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs while you are taking aripiprazole. They may decrease the benefits (e.g., worsen your confusion) and increase adverse effects (e.g., sedation) of the medication.
If an overdose occurs call your doctor or 911. You may need urgent medical care. You may also contact the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. A specific treatment to reverse the effects of aripiprazole does not exist.
Common side effects
Headache, extrapyramidal symptoms, drowsiness, restlessness, fatigue, sedation, agitation, insomnia, anxiety, weight gain, cholesterol abnormalities, increased glucose, nausea, vomiting, constipation, application site rash (MyCite), tremor
Rare/serious side effects
Rash, dry mouth, muscle aches, seizure, agitation
Aripiprazole may increase the blood levels of a hormone called prolactin. Side effects of increased prolactin levels include females losing their period, production of breast milk and males losing their sex drive or possibly experiencing erectile problems. Long term (months or years) of elevated prolactin can lead to osteoporosis or increased risk of bone fractures.
Some people may develop muscle-related side effects while taking aripiprazole. The technical terms for these are “extrapyramidal symptoms” (EPS) and “tardive dyskinesia” (TD). Symptoms of EPS include restlessness, tremor, and stiffness. TD symptoms include slow or jerky movements that one cannot control, often starting in the mouth with tongue rolling or chewing movements.
Temperature regulation: Impaired core body temperature regulation may occur; caution with strenuous exercise, heat exposure, and dehydration.
Second generation antipsychotics (SGAs) increase the risk of weight gain, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol. This is also known as metabolic syndrome. Your healthcare provider may ask you for a blood sample to check your cholesterol, blood sugar, and hemoglobin A1c (a measure of blood sugar over time) while you take this medication.
Information on healthy eating and adding exercise to decrease your chances of developing metabolic syndrome may be found at the following sites:
SGAs have been linked with higher risk of death, strokes, and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) in elderly people with behavior problems due to dementia.
All antipsychotics have been associated with the risk of sudden cardiac death due to an arrhythmia (irregular heart beat). To minimize this risk, antipsychotic medications should be used in the smallest effective dose when the benefits outweigh the risks. Your doctor may order an EKG to monitor for irregular heartbeat.
Neuroleptic malignant syndrome is a rare, life threatening adverse effect of antipsychotics which occurs in <1% of patients. Symptoms include confusion, fever, extreme muscle stiffness, and sweating. If any of these symptoms occur, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
All antipsychotics can cause sedation, dizziness, or orthostatic hypotension (a drop in blood pressure when standing up from sitting or lying down). These side effects may lead to falls which could cause bone fractures or other injuries. This risk is higher for people with conditions or other medications that could worsen these effects. If falls or any of these symptoms occur, contact your healthcare provider.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning that compulsive or uncontrollable urges to gamble, binge eat, shop, and have sex have been reported with the use of aripiprazole. These uncontrollable urges were reported to have stopped when the medicine was discontinued or the dose was reduced. These impulse-control problems are rare, but they may result in harm to the patient and others if not recognized.
Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a side effect that develops with prolonged use of antipsychotics. Medications such as aripiprazole have been shown to have a lower risk of TD compared to older antipsychotics, such as Haldol (haloperidol). If you develop symptoms of TD, such as grimacing, sucking, and smacking of lips, or other movements that you cannot control, contact your healthcare provider immediately. All patients taking either first or second generation antipsychotics should have an Abnormal Involuntary Movement Scale (AIMS) completed regularly by their healthcare provider to monitor for TD.
Second generation antipsychotics (SGAs) increase the risk of diabetes, weight gain, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides. (See “Serious Side Effects” section for monitoring recommendations.
The following medications may increase the levels and effects of aripiprazole:
The following medications may decrease the levels and effects of aripiprazole:
It is very important to tell your doctor how you feel things are going during the first few weeks after you start taking aripiprazole. It will probably take several weeks to see big enough changes in your symptoms to decide if aripiprazole is the right medication for you.
Antipsychotic treatment is generally needed lifelong for persons with schizophrenia. Your doctor can best discuss the duration of treatment you need based on your symptoms and illness.
Increased mortality in elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis
Both first generation (typical) and second generation (atypical) antipsychotics are associated with an increased risk of mortality in elderly patients when used for dementia related psychosis. Although there were multiple causes of death in studies, most deaths appeared to be due to cardiovascular causes (e.g. sudden cardiac death) or infection (e.g. pneumonia). Antipsychotics are not indicated for the treatment of dementia-related psychosis.
Suicidal Thoughts or Actions in Children, Teens, and Young Adults
Depression and certain other psychiatric disorders are themselves associated with increases in the risk of suicide. Patients treated with antidepressants may experience worsening of their depression and/or the emergence of suicidal ideation and behavior (suicidality) or unusual changes in behavior, whether or not they are taking medications. This risk may persist until significant remission occurs. Patients, their families, and caregivers should be alert to the emergence of anxiety, restlessness, irritability, aggressiveness and insomnia. If these symptoms emerge, they should be reported to the patient’s prescriber or healthcare professional. All patients being treated with this medication for depression should watch for and notify their healthcare provider for worsening symptoms, suicidality and unusual changes in behavior, especially during the first few months of treatment.
©2019 The College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). CPNP and NAMI make this document available under the Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives 4.0 International License. Last Updated: January 2016.
This information is being provided as a community outreach effort of the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists. This information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical advice. This information contains a summary of important points and is not an exhaustive review of information about the medication. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified medical professional with any questions you may have regarding medications or medical conditions. Never delay seeking professional medical advice or disregard medical professional advice as a result of any information provided herein. The College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists disclaims any and all liability alleged as a result of the information provided herein.
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