Antipsychotics Linked to Pneumonia in Elderly

An emerging study of nearly 2,000 patients has revealed that using <"">antipsychotic medications in elderly patients doubles the risk for fatal pneumonia, wrote the BBC, citing Dutch researchers. The increased risk appears soon after commencement of treatment and calls for increased monitoring of elderly patients requiring this type of treatment, said the BBC.

Citing an expert review published last year, the BBC said the study found that antipsychotics are often over used and blamed for up to 1,800 deaths in the United Kingdom annually, said the BBC. The most recent research was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and looked at the health records of 258 over-65-year-old patients with pneumonia and 1,686 patients without pneumonia, said the BBC, which added that 25 percent of those diagnosed with pneumonia died within one month.

A review of the medications involved revealed that current antipsychotic use was present with a doubling in increase for pneumonia, noted the BBC, with the risk presenting itself soon after treatment and increasing with higher doses.

Researchers from Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam said that, “Clinicians who start treatment with anti-psychotic drugs should closely monitor patients, particularly at the start of therapy and if high doses are given,” quoted the BBC. Of note, said the BBC, a review in 2009 in the UK revealed that some 180,000 dementia patients receive drugs in facilities and in their own homes for the purpose of managing aggression, but that only 36,000 of these patients actually benefit from the drugs.

On a number of occasions we have written about the dangerous issue surrounding the dosing of medications to the elderly, specifically antidepressants, antipsychotics, and sedatives. Sometimes these medications are given for seemingly pointless reasons and, on occasion, these medications appear to be linked to falls and other accidents in the elderly. Science Daily just reported that such accidents among the elderly are “significantly” linked with these drugs—sedatives to help patients sleep and drugs used to treat mood disorders—citing a study conducted by an expert in “pharmaceutical outcomes research” out of the University of British Columbia.

We also recently wrote that the Chicago Tribune broke with an exposé on how some powerful psychotropic drugs are given to nursing home residents in Illinois without consent and valid psychiatric diagnoses. Some have suffered from a variety of adverse responses that include, said the Tribune, “tremors, dangerous lethargy, and a higher risk of harmful falls or even death.” We also wrote that ABC World News reported that a California nursing home used chemical restraints—drugs—to silence residents. In some cases, this practice was fatal.

When seniors are abused—emotionally, physically, financially, sexually, or through neglect—the risk of death increases by more than double, according a recent study, said Medicine Net recently. Medication abuse is among these abuse types. Sadly, according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data, anti-psychotics that are inappropriately prescribed, kill 15,000 nursing home patients annually in the United States, said ABC previously.

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