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Jeff Rasansky
Jeff Rasansky
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Elderly Still Being Treated With Antipsychotic Drugs

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A few weeks ago we wrote about the fact that stroke and death have both been linked to the use of antipsychotics in treating the elderly. Alarmingly, researchers are finding that atypical antipsychotics are actually increasingly being used to treat the elderly for dementia related symptoms. What’s wrong with this picture?

Approximately 30 percent of all nursing home residents have been administered antipsychotic drugs at one time or another. A few atypical antipsychotics are Risperdal, Seroquel, and Zyprexa.

Atypical antipsychotics are approved in the U.S. to treat schizophrenia but some physicians are using these drugs to treat the symptoms of dementia.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked the manufacturers of conventional antipsychotics to include a black box warning to their labels because they have been linked to an increased risk of death when used in the elderly. However, scientists from the University of Toronto discovered that the overall use of these drugs among the elderly has increased.

Dr. Geoffrey Anderson wrote in an article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal about the serious adverse events associated with using atypical antipsychotics to treat the elderly. He goes on to report that the overall rates of use of the drugs actually increased between the first warning in 2002 and their follow-up in 2007.

Anderson says that “This finding highlights the limited impact of warnings and suggests that more effective approaches are needed to protect vulnerable populations from potentially hazardous medications.”