Study: Atypical psychotropics are not more dangerous than conventional antipsychotics

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Atypical antipsychotic medications are no more dangerous than other conventional antipsychotics, antidepressants and benzodiazepines when it comes to treating nursing home residents, according to a new study.

Although psychotropic drugs are commonly used to treat nursing home patients with dementia, these treatments are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has advised that both atypical and common antipsychotics are associated with an increased risk of death, and that certain atypical antipsychotics, such as risperidone, olanzapine and aripiprazole, are associated with an increased risk of stroke, according to researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

In their study, researchers analyzed the records of 10,900 nursing home residents in British Columbia who were admitted between 1996 and 2006, and who were prescribed a psychotropic drug within 90 days of admission. Among these patients, 1,942 received an atypical antipsychotic, 1,902 received a conventional antipsychotic, 2,169 received an antidepressant and 4,887 received a benzodiazepine.

Compared with those who received atypical antipsychotics, nursing home residents who received typical antipsychotics, antidepressants or benzodiazepines experienced a higher risk of death and a higher risk of femur fracture. Researchers say a larger randomized trial is needed to confirm their findings, but physicians should weigh these increased risks against potential benefits when making prescribing decisions. The report, released Monday, appears in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.


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