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Antipsychotic Medications Dangerous for Elderly With Dementia

Filed May 27th, 2008 amy

New research published in the May 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine indicates that elderly people with dementia who are given , even for a very short period of time, are more likely to end up in the hospital or even die, HealthDay News reports. Unfortunately, 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.

Yet study authors acknowledged that about 17 percent of patients entering nursing homes start taking an antipsychotic within 100 days.

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 with dementia living in a nursing home between April 1, 1997, and March 31, 2004. Each group was divided into three subgroups: those not receiving any antipsychotics, those taking newer antipsychotics, and those taking older antipsychotics such as Haldol.

According to information gleaned from medical records, community-dwelling adults who had recently received a prescription for a newer antipsychotic medication were 3.2 times more likely than individuals who had received no antipsychotic therapy to be hospitalized or to die during 30 days of follow-up.

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