Psychotropic Drugs worse than previously thought

U.S. Government Accountability Office

Physicians often prescribe antipsychotic drugs to older people with dementia to control non-memory related behavioral symptoms, including agitation, aggressiveness, delusions and hallucinations.

But officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have never approved antipsychotic medications — such as haloperidol (Haldol), risperidone (Risperdal),olanzapine (Zyprexa) and quetiapine (Seroquel) — for that purpose. Indeed, these medicines come with a “black box” FDA warning that their use to control behavioral disturbances in people with dementia is associated with an increased risk of premature death.

Many physicians have continued to prescribe the drugs to their patients with dementia anyway, believing that the benefits — primarily protecting patients from harming themselves or others — outweigh the risks.

A study published Wednesday in the journalJAMA Psychiatry, however, presents troubling new evidence that those risks are significantly higher than previously reported.


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