Cullen's study did not rule out all links between increased mortality and antipsychotic drugs. For example, her team found that people who took high doses of first-generation antipsychotic medication daily (1500 mg or greater chlorpromazine equivalents) were 88 percent more likely to die. She says mortality rates possibly increased in this group because first-generation antipsychotics have been associated with cardiac disease risks, and among those who died while taking the larger doses, 53 percent died of cardiovascular disease. "These drugs work very well, but there is clearly a point of diminishing returns," she says. "You rarely need to be on extremely high doses."
Among those whose information was reviewed, the most common cause of death was cardiovascular disease (28 percent); unintended harm, including suicide, was responsible for 8 percent.
"If people are taking their medications, they usually have fewer symptoms and are able to be more organized in other areas of their lives," says Cullen, director of community psychiatry at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. "We believe they are then more likely to make appointments with their primary care doctors, to stay on top of other illnesses they may have and to regularly take diabetes, blood pressure or cholesterol medication that they may require to stay healthy. We also believe that they are more likely to be socially engaged and have a healthier lifestyle."
"If your illness is under control, you can do a lot more," she adds.
Cullen says the study clearly lays out the value o
|Contact: Stephanie Desmon|
Johns Hopkins Medicine