Report: Conventional antipsychotics could harm elderly

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Conventional antipsychotic medications may be even more dangerous than atypical antipsychotics for elderly people with dementia, a new report suggests.

Dr. Philip S. Wang's group at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston evaluated data from patients 65 or older who were treated between 1994 and 2003. Data included 9,142 patients who used a conventional antipsychotic drug and 13,748 who used an atypical antipsychotic drug.

In the first 180 days of use, 17.9% of those using a conventional agent (such as Haldol or Thorazine) died, compared with 14.6% of those who used an atypical antipsychotic (such as Zyprexa or Seroquel). Study information is available in the Dec. 1 New England Journal of Medicine.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory in April that cautioned that the use of atypical antipsychotics increases mortality in the elderly. But it did not include conventional antipsychotics because there was not yet enough trial data, Wang said.

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