Elderly May Be At Greater Risk from Older Antipsychotic Drugs

A federally funded study shows that conventional antipsychotic drugs may be as unsafe or worse for the elderly than the newer drugs that the FDA warned about earlier this year.

In April, the FDA asked drug makers to add warning labels to their newer antipyschotics because studies showed that elderly patients with dementia who took the drugs had an increased risk of death.

In April, the FDA asked drug makers to add warning labels to their newer antipyschotics because studies showed that elderly patients with dementia who took the drugs had an increased risk of death.

In fact, the mortality rate of older patients nearly doubled when they took the newer antipsychotics. These drugs are widely prescribed to the elderly to treat symptoms experienced by those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, such as aggressive behavior, hallucinations, and delusions.

To compare the risks of older antipsychotic drugs to the newer ones, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston looked at prescription and death records for nearly 23,000 older patients who were treated with antipsychotics between 1994 and 2003.

In the first six months, 18% of patients taking conventional antipsychotic drugs died, compared with 15% who were on the newer drugs.

According to the researchers: ”If confirmed, our results suggest that conventional antipsychotic medications should be included in the FDA’s public health advisory.”

The study findings are published in the most recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

”All we can do is encourage clinicians to be thoughtful to balance whatever benefits there are with what appears to be risk,” Dr. Philip Wang, lead study author said.

Currently, the option for treatments for older patients with dementia and delirium are extremely limited.

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