Study Shows Increased Death Risk with Anti-Psychotic Drugs



A study conducted by the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases at King’s College London, and published in the medical journal Lancet Neurology, reports that Alzheimer’s patients are doubling their risk of death by taking certain anti-psychotic drugs.

Because the dementia of Alzheimer’s disease causes symptoms that include delusions, hallucinations, and aggression, doctors prescribe anti-psychotics such as Risperdal, Thorazine and Stelazine. These drugs meant to lessen psychotic episodes have been tied to dangerous side effects such as respiratory problems and strokes.

Doctors reportedly followed 165 British Alzheimer’s patients aged 67 to 100 over the course of three years in differing stages of the disease. Half were given the anti-psychotic drugs and the other half were given placebos.

Thirty-nine of the 83 who received the drugs were dead after one year, while only 27 of the 82 taking placebos were dead. Most of those deaths were the result of pneumonia. Less than 50 percent of the Alzheimer’s patients taking the drugs were alive after two years, while over 70 percent of those taking the placebos were still living. After three years, only 30 percent of those patients taking the drugs were living versus 59 percent taking placebos.

It is not clear exactly what role the anti-psychotics play in increasing the death rates. Experts believe the drugs may be damaging the brain while the effects of sedation make it harder for the patients to exercise and fight off infections.

In both the U.K. and the U.S., it is advised that anti-psychotic drugs be prescribed judiciously and only for a short period of time. However, 60 percent of patients with dementia in Europe and North America are given anti-psychotics for one to two years at a time.