Dementia: experts urge doctors to reduce antipsychotic prescriptions

At The Guardian, Andrew Gregory has this article on the latest research emphasizing the dangers of antipsychotics for people with dementia, including increased risk of strokes and heart failure:

Doctors are being urged to reduce prescribing of antipsychotic drugs to dementia patients after the largest study of its kind found they were linked to more harmful side-effects than previously thought. . . . 

Safety concerns have previously been raised about the drugs, with warnings to medics based on increased risks for stroke and death, but evidence of other dangers was less conclusive.

New research suggests there are a considerably wider range of harms associated with their use than previously acknowledged in regulatory alerts, underscoring the need for increased caution in the early stages of treatment.

Antipsychotic use in dementia patients was associated with elevated risks of a wide range of serious adverse outcomes, including stroke, blood clots, heart attack, heart failure, fracture, pneumonia and acute kidney injury, the study’s authors reported. Their findings were published in the BMJ. . . . Dementia patients who were using antipsychotic drugs had a twofold increased risk of developing pneumonia compared with those who were not.

Researchers also found that dementia patients who took antipsychotics had a 61% increased risk of stroke and a 43% elevated risk of breaking a bone. There was also a 28% increased risk of heart attack and 27% increased risk of heart failure.

Patients with dementia who were prescribed antipsychotics appeared to have a 72% increased risk of kidney injury and 62% increased risk of developing a type of blood clot called a venous thromboembolism. The elevated risks appeared to be highest in the first week after treatment.”

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