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Published on 27 May 2008

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Dementia drugs double death risk


The use of antipsychotic drugs, commonly prescribed to patients with dementia, can heighten the risk of hospitalisation or even death, a new study has shown.

Medications such as olanzapine, quetiapine fumarate and risperidone are often used as a short-term treatment for various psychotic disorders, particularly the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.

A study by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Ontario, Canada, found that antipsychotic drugs are often used for short periods and are frequently prescribed at the time of nursing home admission.

The researchers found that patients prescribed antipsychotic drugs were around twice as likely to be admitted to hospital or die than those who did not receive any medication, according to the report, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The findings have prompted the Alzheimer’s Society to call for “urgent action” to be taken.

“Antipsychotics double risk of death and triple risk of stroke in people with dementia, yet up to 105,000 people with dementia in the UK are inappropriately prescribed them as a quick fix for treating challenging behaviour, such as aggression and agitation,” said Professor Clive Ballard, Director of Research for the Alzheimer’s Society.

“Urgent action is needed to ensure these dangerous drugs are always a last resort.”

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