Acute side effects of antipsychotic drugs in patients with dementia

Serious side effects associated with the use of antipsychotic drugs to calm symptoms of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease are fueling controversy over the drugs, a study published Thursday found.

“The use of antipsychotics in adults with dementia is associated with an increased risk of stroke, venous thromboembolism, heart attack, heart failure, fractures, pneumonia and acute kidney failure,” a study published in the British Medical Journal (PMG) reported.

Risperidone, haloperidol, quetiapine, and olanzapine are commonly used to treat psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. and sometimes against depression that is resistant to other drugs.

These drugs are sometimes given to patients suffering from the effects of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, not to cure these often incurable diseases, but to calm some of the symptoms, such as aggressive behavior.

This use raises a lot of controversy because of the dangerous side effects these drugs can cause and their limited effectiveness.

In the United Kingdom, where the BMG study was conducted, only risperidone and haloperidol are approved for the treatment of dementia.

The PMG study showed higher risks for antipsychotics used to treat dementia than previous studies, including pneumonia.

However, this study, based on a retrospective review of data from the British Health Organization, did not confirm the existence of a direct relationship between cause and effect, for example, pneumonia, in some cases, contributed to the appearance of dementia, and thus the recommendation of its treatment, and not vice versa.

At a time when antipsychotics were being prescribed again after the “Covid” crisis, many neurologists and geriatricians appreciated the seriousness and importance of this study.

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“The danger is that patients are prescribed dangerous antipsychotics for the simple reason that they don't have enough trained health workers to manage their behavior,” says neurologist Charles Marshall, who admits that such drugs may be justified in rare cases.

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