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Antipsychotics increase mortality risk among people with dementia

December 28, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Senior Editor
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New research confirms what we already know: antipsychotic drugs should only be used for the most difficult dementia cases and even then should be used in the smallest doses and for the least time possible. Concomitant use of two or more antipsychotics should be avoided.

Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland found antipsychotics increase the risk of premature death by 60 percent for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, increased risk of mortality was highest at the beginning of drug use and remained increased in long-term use. Their results were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Mortality risk was compared among the most commonly used antipsychotic drugs. Haloperidol was associated with highest risk of mortality, and the use of haloperidol and risperidone were associated with an increased risk of mortality compared with low-dose risperidone use. Use of two or more antipsychotic drugs concomitantly was associated with almost two times higher risk of mortality than monotherapy.

Researchers analyzed participants in the Finish nationwide MEDALZ study including community-dwelling persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease between 2005 and 2011. The register-based study was restricted to persons who did not use antipsychotics during the year preceding the start of follow up, did not have a history of psychiatric disorder and did not have active cancer at the start of follow-up. Twenty-seven percent of more than 57,000 participants started antipsychotic drug use during the follow-up.

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