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Anti-psychotic drugs widely prescribed to people with Alzheimer’s offer no long-term benefits and can actually cause decline, experts have said.
A UK study even found the drugs caused a deterioration in the verbal and thinking skills of people with the disease.
The medicines – known as neuroleptics – are used to manage neuropsychiatric symptoms of Alzheimer’s, such as aggression, agitation and psychosis, researchers said.
“Over 90% of people with dementia develop these symptoms at some point during their illness,” they said.
“The symptoms are frequently distressing for the patients who experience them and problematic for their caregivers, in whom they are associated with clinically significant depression.
The study, published in the PLoS journal, involved 165 patients currently prescribed thioridazine, chlorpromazine, haloperidol, trifluoperazine or risperidone for behavioural or psychiatric disturbance.
Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said: “These results are deeply troubling and highlight the urgent need to develop better treatments.
“700,000 people are affected by dementia in the UK, a figure that will double in the next 30 years.
“The Government needs to make Alzheimer’s research funding a priority.
“Only £11 is spent on UK research into Alzheimer’s for every person affected by the disease, compared to £289 for cancer patients.”
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