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Antipsychotics May Up Early Mortality Risk in Parkinson's

Unclear whether the medications or the disease are the key factor; study only shows an association


WEDNESDAY, March 23, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Parkinson's disease patients who are given antipsychotics to treat dementia and psychosis may be more likely to die early, according to research published online March 21 in JAMA Neurology.

The study focused on 7,877 Parkinson's patients in the Veterans Affairs system who took antipsychotics (mostly men, with an average age of 76). The researchers compared them to 7,877 Parkinson's patients in the VA system who didn't take the drugs.

The investigators found that those who took antipsychotics were more than twice as likely to die over six months as those who didn't (intent-to-treat hazard ratio, 2.35). Those who took the older typical antipsychotics (especially Haldol) were at highest risk. The study didn't pinpoint the risk of death for those who didn't take the drugs. While the study focused almost entirely on men, the researchers said the experiences of women would probably be the same.

"This [study] does not necessarily answer whether the drugs themselves lead to more deaths, or if it's instead the reasons they were prescribed," Mark Baron, M.D., interim director of the Virginia Commonwealth University's Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center in Richmond and author of a commentary accompanying the study, told HealthDay.

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