Let me bring you up to speed on the use of anti-psychotic drugs used to treat dementia patients. First of all, a 2006 study showed that Alzheimer's patients who took these drugs had no significant improvement over placebos. We also know that these drugs can cause some serious side effects in Alzheimer's patients, such as an increased risk of stroke and respiratory issues. And another study linked the use of "atypical" antipsychotic drugs to an increased risk of sudden cardiac death - even in younger patients.
Now a study shows that the anti-psychotic drugs that are commonly prescribed to treat Alzheimer's could actually double a patient's risk of dying within a few years. The lead author of this study, Clive Ballard of the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases at King's College London, says that risk of death likely outweighs the benefit of these drugs.
Well, no kidding! I have yet to see anything good come from loading these helpless elderly people up on antipsychotic drugs that were never even intended to be used in this way.
Ballard's study tracked 165 Alzheimer's patients aged 67 to 100. Half continued on their course of anti-psychotics, while the other half were took placebos.
At the end of two years, 71 percent of the placebo group were still alive - but only 46 percent of the group on anti-psychotics survived.
After three years, just 30 percent of those taking the anti-psychotics were alive, while 59 percent of the placebo group were still going strong.
Yet in spite of the increasing evidence of the dangers of these anti-psychotic drugs such as Risperdal, Thorazine, and Stelazine (as well as other derivatives like risperidone, quetiapine, and olanzapine), they racked up a staggering $14.5 billion in international sales in 2007. These are three of the top 10 best-selling drugs on the planet.
These drugs were never meant to be used long-term, yet as many as 60 percent of nursing home residents with dementia are placed on anti-psychotic regimens that last as long as two years. William Thies of the Alzheimer's Association said that "at some points, some people will be better off with no medication."
I doubt that's something that the Big Pharma companies that paid for this study will want to hear.