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Nursing Home Drug May Speed Alzheimer's

Doctors urged to choose another antipsychotic medication

THURSDAY, Feb. 17, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The antipsychotic drug quetiapine, commonly used to treat agitation and other symptoms in people with Alzheimer's living in nursing homes, greatly speeds up cognitive decline, says a study published online in the British Medical Journal.

Researchers tracked 93 dementia patients for six months. Some people were given quetiapine (brand name Seroquel), some took a placebo and others were given another antipsychotic drug called rivastigmine (Exelon).

Those who were given the placebo showed little change. But the people who took quetiapine suffered twice the rate of cognitive decline -- memory and other higher brain functions -- as those who took the placebo. People who took rivastigmine experienced little or no worsening of their symptoms.

This finding is important, the study authors noted, because quetiapine has been considered one of the safer antipsychotic drugs. The study highlights concerns about quetiapine and suggests that it is not a viable alternative to two other antipsychotic drugs used to treat agitation in people with dementia -- risperidone and olanzapine, which may increase stroke risk.

More information

The Alzheimer's Association has more about Alzheimer's behavioral symptoms.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, news release, Feb. 17, 2005
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