Elderly patients are often prescribed atypical antipsychotics for early cases of dementia. However, these drugs may increase the patient’s risk of death. A recent FDA advisory shows that the use of antipsychotic medications can almost double the risk of death in older individuals. The results come from a review of 17 trials that were placebo- controlled.
The drugs in question are olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), aripiprazole (Abilify), and quetiapine (Seroquel). All of these drugs showed an increased risk of death from cardiac events or infection when used in older patients. Because the drugs all had the same effect on the patients, the FDA believes that all atypical antipsychotic drugs may share this common effect.
This means that the common drug clozapine (Clozaril) may also have similar effects in dementia patients, even though it has not yet been tested. Boxed warnings have to be placed on these medications now, and the FDA is looking into examining other antipsychotic medications to see if they also increase the risk of death in older individuals.
Speak to your doctor if someone your know is suffering from the early stages of dementia and is taking antipsychotic medications. Doctors should always ensure that the benefit of the drug outweighs its potential risk.