January 16, 2009
by Sherry Baker
(NaturalNews) When people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) ” act up” and show signs of neuropsychiatric symptoms such as aggression and agitation, they are often given antipsychotic drugs. Now, it turns out, that’s a practice that could be deadly. The result of a long-term study , just published online and in the February edition of The Lancet Neurology journal shows there’s a large increased risk of severe side effects and death in patients receiving these medications. What’s more, they hasten mental deterioration.
Dr. Clive Ballard of the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases at King’s College in London and her colleagues are the first researchers to document long-term data for AD patients given antipsychotic drugs. They followed 165 patients with AD between the ages of 67 and 100 who resided in four United Kingdom facilities between 2001 and 2004. The research subjects were randomly assigned to take antipsychotic medications (thioridazine, chlorpromazine, haloperidol, trifluorperazine, or risperidone) or an oral placebo.
After a year, there was 70% survival in the antipsychotic group compared with 77% in placebo. But after two years, there was a far bigger difference in the death rate. Survival was 46% in the antipsychotic group and 71% in the placebo group. And at three years, the difference was even more stunning. Only 30% of people being given antipsychotics were still alive while almost 60 percent of those on placebos, inert substances with no drug activity, were still living. When the scientists computed the death rate for the AD patients throughout all the years, they found it was 42% lower in the placebo group than in the antipsychotic group.
So what adverse effects did the drugs have on the people with Alzheimer’s? Specifically, they were found to increase the incidence of Parkinson’s disease, sedation, edema, chest infections, stroke and death . Those taking antipsychotics also experienced an accelerated decline in their brain function. In a statement released to the media, the scientists said their research highlights the need to seek less harmful treatments for AD patients who exhibit neuropsychiatric symptoms.
“Our data add further serious safety concerns about the long-term use of antipsychotics in this population, and clinicians should certainly try to replace antipsychotics with safer management approaches. Several studies have shown that psychological management can replace antipsychotic therapy without any appreciable worsening of neuropsychiatric symptoms… Our opinion is that there is still an important but limited place for atypical antipsychotics in the treatment of severe neuropsychiatric manifestations, particularly aggression, of AD. However, the accumulating safety concerns, including the substantial increase in long-term mortality, emphasize the urgent need to put an end to unnecessary and prolonged prescribing,” the researchers stated.