Introduction: Antipsychotic treatment in early-onset schizophrenia (EOS) lacks a rich evidence base, and efforts to rank different drugs concerning their efficacy have not proven any particular drug superior. In contrast to the literature regarding adult-onset schizophrenia (AOS), comparative effectiveness studies in children and adolescents are limited in number and size, and only a few meta-analyses based on conventional methodologies have been conducted. Methods and analyses: We will conduct a network meta-analysis of all randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluate antipsychotic therapies for EOS to determine which compounds are efficacious, and to determine the relative efficacy and safety of these treatments when compared in a network meta-analysis. Unlike a contrast-based (standard) meta-analysis approach, an arm-based network meta-analysis enables statistical inference from combining both direct and indirect comparisons within an empirical Bayes framework. We will acquire eligible studies through a systematic search of MEDLINE, the Cochrane Central Registry of Controlled Trials, Clinicaltrials.gov and Centre for Reviews and Dissemination databases. Eligible studies should randomly allocate children and adolescents presenting with schizophrenia or a related non-affective psychotic condition to an intervention group or to a control group. Two reviewers will-independently and in duplicate-screen titles and abstracts, complete full text reviews to determine eligibility, and subsequently perform data abstraction and assess risk of bias of eligible trials. We will conduct meta-analyses to establish the effect of all reported therapies on patient-relevant efficacy and safety outcomes when possible. Ethics and dissemination: No formal ethical procedures regarding informed consent are required as no primary data collection is undertaken. The review will help facilitate evidence-based management, identify key areas for future research, and provide a framework for conducting large systematic reviews combining direct and indirect comparisons. The study will be disseminated by peer-reviewed publication and conference presentation.
School of Medicine