Prevalence of COVID-19 and Psychotropic Drug Treatment in Psychiatric In-patients in Germany in 2020: Results from a Nationwide Pilot Survey

Juliane K. Mueller*, Kira F. Ahrens, Michael Bauer, Bernhard T. Baune, Stefan Borgwardt, Jürgen Deckert, Katharina Domschke, Regina Ellwanger, Andreas Fallgatter, Thomas Frodl, Jürgen Gallinat, René Gottschalk, Hans J. Grabe, Alkomiet Hasan, Sabine C. Herpertz, Rene Hurlemann, Frank Jessen, Joseph Kambeitz, Tilo Kircher, Johannes KornhuberKlaus Lieb, Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, Rainer Rupprecht, Norbert Scherbaum, Christiane Schlang, Anja Schneider, Georg Schomerus, Andreas Thoma, Stefan Unterecker, Martin Walter, Henrik Walter, Andreas Reif, Christine Reif-Leonhard

*Corresponding author for this work


Introduction In patients with a pre-existing mental disorder, an increased risk for a first manifestation of a psychiatric disorder in COVID-19 patients, a more severe course of COVID-19 and an increased mortality have been described. Conversely, observations of lower COVID-19 incidences in psychiatric in-patients suggested protective effects of psychiatric treatment and/or psychotropic drugs against COVID-19. Methods A retrospective multi-center study was conducted in 24 German psychiatric university hospitals. Between April and December 2020 (the first and partly second wave of COVID-19), the effects of COVID-19 were assessed on psychiatric in-patient care, the incidence and course of a SARS-CoV-2 infection, and treatment with psychotropic drugs. Results Patients (n=36,322) were admitted to the hospitals. Mandatory SARS-CoV-2 tests before/during admission were reported by 23 hospitals (95.8%), while 18 (75%) conducted regular testing during the hospital stay. Two hundred thirty-two (0.6%) patients were tested SARS-CoV-2-positive. Thirty-seven (16%) patients were receiving medical treatment for COVID-19 at the psychiatric hospital, ten (4.3%) were transferred to an intermediate/intensive care unit, and three (1.3%) died. The most common prescription for SARS-CoV-2-positive patients was for second-generation antipsychotics (n=79, 28.2%) and antidepressants (SSRIs (n=38, 13.5%), mirtazapine (n=36, 12.9%) and SNRIs (n=29, 10.4%)). Discussion Contrary to previous studies, our results showed a low number of infections and mortality in SARS-CoV-2-positive psychiatric patients. Several preventive measures seem effective to protect this vulnerable group. Our observations are compatible with the hypothesis of a protective effect of psychotropic drugs against COVID-19 as the overall mortality and need for specific medical treatment was low.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)227-238
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 30.06.2023

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 206-10 Clinical Psychiatry, Psychotherapy amd Paediatric and Juvenile Psychiatrie

Coronavirus related work

  • Research on SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19

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