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Newer Drugs May Help Elderly Schizophrenics

Switching them off older class of antipsychotics works well, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 19, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A new class of antipsychotic drugs may offer improved relief for elderly people with schizophrenia, says an international study in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Most elderly people with schizophrenia are treated with conventional antipsychotic drugs. This study concludes they would have better treatment results if they were switched to a new class of atypical antipsychotic medications now widely used to treat people in other age groups.

These atypical antipsychotic drugs have generally proven to be more effective and to cause fewer side effects than conventional antipsychotic drugs, study author Dr. Dilip V. Jeste, director of the Advanced Center for Interventions and Services Research at the University of California, San Diego and VA San Diego Healthcare System, says in a prepared statement.

Until now, there was no large-scale trial of atypical antipsychotics in geriatric patients.

"One of the implications of this study is that schizophrenia in the elderly is not to be simply endured but to be treated with the latest that medical science has to offer. Almost all the previous studies of these drugs involved people under the age of 60 or 65. But the research did not provide the evidence doctors need to safely and effectively administer these medicines to elderly patients," Jeste says.

He and his colleagues tested the drugs risperidone and olanzapine in 175 elderly people with schizophrenia. The study concluded that safe, effective dosages for these elderly patients were about half of what's recommended for younger patients.

When used appropriately, these drugs provide the same benefits for elderly patients as they do for younger patients. These include better functioning and fewer side effects compared with conventional antipsychotic drugs.

This study was funded by Janssen Products Inc., which manufactures the drug risperidone under the brand name Risperdal.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about schizophrenia.

SOURCE: American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, news release, November 2003
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