It is commonly recommended that a switch to clozapine be implemented in the face of tardive dyskinesia, even if current treatment involves another "atypical" agent. However, reports do indicate clozapine carries a liability for tardive dyskinesia.

This review sought to evaluate clozapine in relation to tardive dyskinesia in the context of available evidence.

Medline, Embase, and PsycINFO databases were searched for studies published in English, using the keywords: clozapine AND tardive dyskinesia OR TD. References from major review articles were searched for additional relevant publications. Studies were included if they investigated: tardive dyskinesia in clozapine-treated patients diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorders, and reported on two or more assessments of tardive dyskinesia severity measured by the Abnormal Involuntary Movement Scale; or clozapine's tardive dyskinesia liability.

In total, 513 unique citations were identified and 29 reports met the inclusion criteria. Thirteen studies suggest clozapine reduces dyskinetic symptoms over time (n=905 clozapine-treated participants); however, the minimum required dose and effect of withdrawal requires further investigation. The majority of reports which address clozapine's liability for tardive dyskinesia are case studies (11 of 14 reports, 79%), and clozapine was only the first-line treatment in one of the remaining three studies reporting treatment-emergent dyskinetic symptoms with clozapine in 12% of patients. No significant between-drug differences were identified comparing clozapine's risk to other atypical antipsychotics.

Research to date supports switching to clozapine for the purpose of reducing tardive dyskinesia risk and/or treating existing tardive dyskinesia, but prospective randomized controlled trials are necessary if we are to substantiate existing recommendations.