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Antipsychotics Dangerous for Elderly With Dementia
Date:5/26/2008

Study finds those on drugs more likely to wind up in hospital or die

MONDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly people with dementia who are given antipsychotics, even for a very short period of time, are more likely to end up in the hospital or even die, new research shows.

However, the problems underlying the need for such medications, behavioral problems such as aggression and agitation, are very real, and the alternatives to antipsychotics are limited, the researchers added.

"A misreading of the findings would be we don't need to do something for these nursing home residents," said study author Dr. Gary J. Kennedy, head of geriatric psychiatry for Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

Many experts feel behavioral interventions should be tried first and antipsychotics used as a last resort, "when the behavior or the psychiatric symptoms are really out of control and causing complete distress not only for the person suffering from Alzheimer's, but for caregivers all around them," said Maria Carrillo, director of medical and scientific affairs at the Alzheimer's Association in Chicago. "It's important to work these things out with the physician and, of course, do follow-up very closely together, so you can make sure these antipsychotics are having the effect you want and, if not, discontinue them immediately."

The findings were published in the May 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Antipsychotic drugs are commonly used to treat some of the behavioral complications of dementia, including delirium.

Newer antipsychotic medications such as Zyprexa (olanzapine) and Risperdal (risperidone) have been available for about a decade and have largely replaced their older counterparts.

Researchers from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Ontario, Canada, compared 20,682 older adults with dementia living in the community with 20,559 older adults w
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