Anti-psychotic drugs have been found to double the risk of death among patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study.
Experts advised that over-prescription of the drugs to prevent symptoms such as severe aggression, delusions, and agitation should be immediately halted.
Normally used to treat people with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, anti-psychotic drugs are said to offer modest improvement to patients with Alzheimer’s over periods of six to 12 weeks.
But treating Alzheimer’s this way has been associated with a range of serious adverse conditions, including Parkinson’s-like symptoms, accelerated mental decline, and strokes.
The study, published online in the Lancet Neurology, also found that a patient’s chance of death increased the longer they took the drugs.
The research, funded by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, showed that survival rates fell by 35% over two years, while after three years the risk of death almost doubled.
Professor Clive Ballard, from King’s College London, who led the research, said: “The study clearly highlights the serious risks associated with the long-term use of anti-psychotics in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
“It is essential to reduce the widespread long-term prescription of these drugs by using more non-drug treatments such as psychological therapies, and more research is urgently needed to establish more effective and safer drug treatments.”
Copyright Press Association 2009