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Certain Antipsychotics Up Risk of Death for Patients With Dementia: Study
Date:2/23/2012

THURSDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) Compared to other antipsychotic drugs, haloperidol (Haldol) raises the risk of death in elderly patients with dementia, a new study finds.

One outside expert believes the finding should aid in dementia care. "This data provides much-needed guidance and reassurance for the ever-increasing number of health care practitioners treating older demented patients," said Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein, director of geriatric education at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

The study was published online Feb. 23 in the British Medical Journal.

In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that certain antipsychotic drugs are associated with an increased risk of death in elderly patients with dementia. This warning was expanded to include conventional antipsychotics in 2008, according to a journal news release.

The authors of the new study said that, despite the FDA action, the use of antipsychotic drugs for this patient population is likely to grow. According to the Harvard Medical School researchers, that's because there are a growing number of elderly patients with dementia who require some type of treatment.

Wolf-Klein agreed, noting that safety concerns over the use of antipsychotics are "leaving primary care physicians, geriatricians, neurologist and psychiatrists in a quandary as they attempt to respond to overwhelmed caregivers dealing with unmanageable behaviors at home. Discussion with family members of the risks and benefits of atypical antipsychotics creates additional stress and burden in an already difficult situation."

In the study, the Harvard group examined 2001-2005 data from more than 75,000 nursing home residents, aged 65 and older, in facilities across 45 states. They sought to assess the risk of death associated with widely used antipsychotic drugs such as aripiprazole, haloperidol, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone and ziprasid
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