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Study looks at risk of death following antipsychotic prescription


Posted on behalf of Mark F. Griffin of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Mar 23, 2015 in Nursing Home Abuse

In an earlier post we wrote about a program that was being utilized in some nursing homes to try to reduce the use of antipsychotic drugs in cases where residents are diagnosed with either dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The drugs are sometimes given to individuals to treat symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, agitation and aggressiveness. As we mentioned in that post, under some circumstances giving nursing home residents those drugs might be considered abuse or neglect. As it turns out there could be another reason why great thought should be put into prescribing these drugs for dementia and Alzheimer's.

Researchers recently looked into the risks tied to the use of antipsychotics to treat symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s. They looked at data from the Veterans Affairs Administration that spanned more than a decade. The data focused on 46,000 over the age of 64 and compared the treatment outcomes between those who received the antipsychotics and those who did not.

The study, the results of which were published online by JAMA Psychiatry, specifically focused on the six month window following the drug being prescribed. It looked at how many older individuals would have to be taking that drug before one of them died within that time frame. The NNH, or number needed to harm broke down this way:

  • Haloperidol, (Haldol) - 26
  • Risperdal, (risperidone) - 27
  • Zyprexa (olanzapine) - 40
  • Seroquel (quetiapine) - 50

Antidepressants, which are sometimes prescribed as an alternative, were also included in the study. Their NNH was 166.

The results of this study indicate just how important it is for thorough the consideration be given to prescribing antipsychotics to those with dementia or Alzheimer’s, regardless of where they are living. If such a prescription is not warranted, the prescriber could face legal ramifications.