Some antipsychotic drugs given to nursing home residents with dementia may do more harm than good, new research has found.
A study published in the British Medical Journal shows seniors over the age of 65 who take several commonly prescribed medications face an increased risk of death.
The Harvard Medical School study, the largest ever undertaken among U.S. nursing home residents, was based on an analysis of 75,445 older nursing home residents in 45 states between 2001 and 2005.
The US Food and Drug Administration warned in 2005 that some antipsychotic drugs are associated with an increased risk of mortality in elderly patients with dementia, but questions still remain on whether risks differ by drugs.
The new research found 6,598 of the patients died within the six-month period studied by Harvard experts. Patients treated with haloperidol (Haldol) had twice the risk of death compared with those taking risperidone (Risperdal), while those taking quetiapine (Seroquel) had a reduced risk. The death rate among users of aripiprazole (Abilify), olanzapine (Zyprexa) and ziprasidone (Geodon) was similar to patients taking Risperdal.
Almost half of the deaths were due to circulatory disorders, 10 percent to brain disorders and 15 percent to respiratory disorders, researchers said.
The authors concluded not all antipsychotic medication carries the same risk of death in elderly populations. They added: "Clinicians may want to consider this evidence when evaluating …the best approach to treatment of behavioral problems."