Clozapine is the only approved antipsychotic for treatment-resistant schizophrenia. Despite its therapeutic benefits, it is still widely underused, mainly because of its potential to cause agranulocytosis and neutropenia. Prescribing clozapine in COVID-19–positive patients became more challenging because of this potential side effect. This article is a review of literature on the risk of neutropenia associated with clozapine treatment in patients with COVID-19.
Areas of Uncertainty:
In clozapine-treated COVID-19–positive patients, neutropenia was reported in some cases; is it a consequence of clozapine treatment or of SARS-Co2 infection?
Data were extracted from 2 databases: PubMed/MEDLINE and Google Scholar. We selected all original reports, from March 2020 until May 2022, on neutropenia associated with clozapine treatment in positive COVID-19 patients. Eleven studies were selected for the final analysis.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, neutropenia in clozapine-treated patients was reported in 3.8% of cases. During the pandemic, neutropenia rates seemed to be higher. As per the cause of neutropenia, studies reported contradictory results. We aim to clarify rates and causes of neutropenia in clozapine-treated COVID-19–positive patients.
Three hundred eighty-eight articles were initially selected from the 2 databases. After excluding duplicates, unrelated articles, reviews, and guidelines, 11 studies were analyzed, all centered on clozapine treatment, COVID-19 infection, and associated neutropenia.
Clozapine treatment in COVID-19–positive patients may be associated with a transient reduction of absolute neutrophils count, in some cases reaching neutropenia levels. Neutropenia rates reported in SARS-CoV-2–infected patients are higher than the prepandemic reports; therefore, we assume that the cause might be a result of the immunological interference between clozapine and SARS-CoV-2. Clozapine treatment needs to be continued whenever possible, with dose adjustments in relation to blood test results.