Tuesday 11 December 2018
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Some antipsychotic drugs could increase death risk in elderly people with dementia

New research suggests nursing home residents over the age of 65 who take certain antipsychotic medications for dementia are at an increased risk of death.

A study by the Harvard Medical School published on bmj.com, looked at 75,445 nursing home residents from 45 US states between 2001 and 2005. The study assessed mortality risks associated with individual antipsychotic drugs including aripiprazole, haloperidol, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone and ziprasidone.

Out of 75,445 nursing home residents, a total of 6,598 (8.7 per cent) died within the six month study from non-cancer related causes. Patients treated with haloperidol had double the risk of death compared with those taking risperidone, while those taking quetiapine had a reduced risk. Almost half of deaths (49%) were recorded as due to circulatory disorders, 10% to brain disorders and 15% to respiratory disorders.  

Alzheimer's Society comment:

'This research supports existing studies that have shown antipsychotics can raise the risk of death, particularly when used over the longer term. As many as 150,000 of the 180,000 people with dementia who are on the drugs in the UK have been prescribed inappropriately. For a minority of people with dementia antipsychotics should be used, but then only for up to twelve weeks, and under the correct circumstances. For the majority, they do far more harm than good.

'It is essential alternative treatment approaches are provided to help GPs and other medical professionals reduce the prescribing of these dangerous drugs.'

Dr Anne Corbett
Research Manager
Alzheimer's Society