Experts issue antipsychotics warning
Published on 28 February 2012 10:00 AM
Health experts have revealed prolonged exposure to 'chemical cosh' treatments increases the risk of dementia patients suffering an early death.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School, US, said that the findings might make doctors think carefully about what antipsychotics they prescribe and how long the course of treatment should be.
The treatment is widely used in hospitals and care homes, but critics have suggested this is mainly to make patients easier to look after than to provide treatment benefits.
Despite guidelines saying antipsychotics should only be used as a last resort over a short period of time, some patients were reported to have been taking them for years.
The study, which involved 75,445 people aged 65 and over and was the biggest ever conducted among US nursing home residents, highlighted haloperidol, in particular, as a drug that increases the dangers for patients.
Haloperidol, which is widely used in the UK and the US, was found to have double the risk of death compared to risperidone, but quetiapine decreased the risks.
Although the researchers stressed that not all antipsychotics raise the risks, they said doctors should take extra care and consider the evidence when prescribing the drugs.
Writing online in the British Medical Journal, the experts said: 'The data suggests that the risk of mortality with these drugs is generally increased with higher doses and seems to be highest for haloperidol and least for quetiapine.'
Copyright Press Association 2012