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Antipsychotic Drugs of Little Benefit to Alzheimer's Patients

They offered some relief, but results were not statistically significant

WEDNESDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- The continuing use of antipsychotic drugs provides no cognitive or neuropsychiatric benefit for Alzheimer's patients, a British study concludes.

Researchers at King's College Hospital in London studied 165 patients who were already being treated with antipsychotic drugs. The patients were divided into two groups -- one continued treatment with the drugs, while the other group stopped treatment.

The patients were assessed six and 12 months later, and the researchers found no differences between the two groups in terms of cognitive decline or in the number of neuropsychiatric problems.

Patients with severe neuropsychiatric problems at the start of the study may have derived some benefit from continued drug therapy, but this difference was not statistically significant, the researchers said.

While these findings suggest that continued use of antipsychotic drugs offers no benefits for Alzheimer's patients, this was a small study, the study authors noted. More research is needed to improve management of these patients, they added.

The study appears in the cuurent issue of PLoS Medicine.

Almost all older dementia patients have some neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as agitation, aggression and psychosis. Antipsychotics are often used to manage or control these symptoms, but there are safety concerns, including increased risk of stroke, sedation, edema, chest infections and parkinsonism. Prolonged use of antipsychotics may also lead to a worsening of cognitive decline.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about Alzheimer's medications.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Public Library of Science, news release, March 31, 2008

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