Study: Sustained use of antipsychotics increases Alzheimer's death risk

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Prolonged use of antipsychotic medications on Alzheimer's patients is associated with a significantly increased risk of death, according to a new British study.

The long-term study, conducted by researchers at King's College London, followed 128 Alzheimer's patients for three years. One group was treated with antipsychotic medication, while another was given a placebo. After one year, researchers found similar survival rates among the groups. But after three years, the numbers became more drastic: Only 30% of those on antipsychotics were alive, compared with 59% of those taking a placebo, according to the research. Overall, there was a 42% lower risk of death for the placebo group.

Such off-label use of antipsychotics to treat Alzheimer's patients is common practice in nursing homes. Researchers do not dispute that short term use of the drugs can be beneficial for the patients. The substantial increase in long-term mortality risk, however, emphasizes the need to put an end to prolonged use of the meds, according to report authors. Their research appears online in the Jan. 8 edition of The Lancet Neurology.
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