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Dementia: Some Antipsychotic Drugs Riskier Than Others

Among Drugs Used to Calm Agitated Dementia Patients, Newer Drugs Seem Safer Than Older

Death Risk Lowest in Seroquel Users continued...

Among the major findings:

  • Compared to Risperdal users, Haldol users were twice as likely to die from non-cancer-related causes during a six-month observation period, with the largest number of deaths occurring during the first 40 days of treatment.
  • Users of the second-generation drug Seroquel (quetiapine) had a slightly lower risk for death than users of Risperdal.
  • The death rate among users of Abilify (aripiprazole), Zyprexa (olanzapine), and Geodon (ziprasidone) was similar to that of patients who took Risperdal.

The study is the first to suggest that Seroquel carries a lower risk for death than other second-generation antipsychotic drugs, and Huybrechts says more study is needed to confirm the finding.

‘Antipsychotics Still Over-prescribed’

While it may be that newer second-generation antipsychotic drugs carry a lower risk of death for elderly patients with dementia than the older medications, the newer drugs are not without risk and are still over-prescribed, psychiatrist Jenny McCleery, MD, of the United Kingdom’s Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, tells WebMD.

“The use of these drugs in this patient population has been much too prevalent in the past and it still is,” she says.

She tells WebMD that many conditions may contribute to agitation and aggression in patients with dementia.

“That is why it is important to conduct a full assessment to look for these causes before antipsychotic drugs are prescribed,” McCleery says.

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