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Antipsychotics Linked to Mortality in Alzheimer's

Study adds further evidence arguing against use of antipsychotics in Alzheimer's patients

FRIDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Antipsychotic medication is associated with an increased risk of long-term mortality in Alzheimer's disease patients, further suggesting their use should be limited in these patients, according to research published online Jan. 9 in The Lancet Neurology.

Clive Ballard, M.D., of King's College London in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a randomized placebo-controlled trial to determine if continued antipsychotic therapy leads to an increased risk of mortality in Alzheimer's disease patients. Between 2001 and 2004, 128 patients either continued treatment with antipsychotic medication or switched to placebo; the study treatment continued for a 12-month period.

During the 12-month study period, patients who continued antipsychotic therapy experienced a reduced rate of survival compared with those who switched to placebo (70 percent versus 77 percent, respectively), the investigators found. The difference in survival rates became more pronounced at 24 months (46 percent versus 71 percent) and 36 months (30 percent versus 59 percent), the researchers report. A significantly increased risk of mortality was also identified through a Kaplan-Meier analysis (hazard ratio, 0.58).

Although there exists "an important but limited place for atypical antipsychotics in the treatment of severe neuropsychiatric manifestations of Alzheimer's disease," the authors write, "accumulating safety concerns, including the substantial increase in long-term mortality, emphasize the urgent need to put an end to unnecessary and prolonged prescribing."

One of the study authors reports a financial relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.

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