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Wednesday, April 4th 2007

Antipsychotics + Alzheimer's

Is this combination costing lives?

A group of 165 Alzheimer’s patients were randomly assigned to take one of three types of neuroleptic drugs, or a placebo. After two years 45% of those who took the real drugs had died compared with 22% who were given the placebo.

The King’s College London researchers who undertook the project, funded by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, found that after three years 65% of those on the drugs had died compared with 38% of those on placebos. After 42 months 75% of those on the drugs had died compared with 60% on the placebo. On average patients who were on the drugs died six months earlier.

So says this recent study but are the use of antipsychotics in dementia really prevalent?

Despite this, in 2005 the Alzheimer’s Society presented evidence that 100,000 people suffering from dementia were being prescribed a neuroleptic drug.

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the society, said: “Neuroleptics have been used as a dangerous fix for ‘challenging behaviour’ in people with dementia for too long. They are not licensed for use among people with dementia, but continue to be hugely over-prescribed. It is a national scandal that people are being sedated in this way … These drugs must be a last resort, only used when all other methods have failed to alleviate the most distressing symptoms of dementia.”