Anti-psychotics may speed Alzheimer's decline
By Kathleen Fackelmann
April 7, 2008
Anti-psychotic drugs frequently used in nursing homes to treat aggression in Alzheimer's patients don't provide any benefit and seem to lead to a marked decline in verbal ability, a report says.
The study, published in the April issue of the journal Public Library of Science Medicine, adds to a long line of evidence suggesting such drugs aren't safe in elderly patients and don't work very well when used off-label.
The Food and Drug Administration warned doctors in 2005 that some anti-psychotic drugs could increase the risk of death when given to older patients in nursing homes.
Yet the drugs are widely prescribed. An estimated 30% to 60% of nursing home patients in the USA are given the drugs, and many of the patients have Alzheimer's, a progressive brain disease that sometimes leads to aggressive behavior, says Ralph Nixon, a spokesman for the Alzheimer's Association.
Doctors often prescribe these drugs because they act as sedatives for difficult patients, says researcher Robin Jacoby, a geriatric psychiatrist at the University of Oxford in England.
Often an underlying medical problem, such as an untreated urinary tract infection, causes an Alzheimer's patient to behave aggressively, Jacoby says.