A new study has suggested that the anti-psychotic drugs or neuroleptics, which are widely prescribed for Alzheimer's patients, do not provide any benefit, but cause significant deterioration in people suffering form the disease.
In fact, the researchers from Kings College London and the Universities of Oxford and Newcastle, said that the neuroleptics did not offer any benefit to patients having mild behavioural problems, but they did result in a significant deterioration in verbal skills. he study led by Professor Clive Ballard, was conducted on 165 people with advanced Alzheimer's who were living in nursing homes in four British cities-Oxfordshire, Newcastle, Edinburgh and London.
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All patients had been taking neuroleptics for three months. They either continued on the same medication for a further 12 months, or took a dummy pill.
The neuroleptics, which were analysed in the study, were thioridazine (Melleril), chlorpromazine (Largactil), haloperidol (Serenace), trifluoperazine (Stelazine) and risperidone (Risperdal).
It was observed that these drugs failed to offer long-term benefit for the majority of patients with mild symptoms of disturbed behaviour. However, only 6 months of treatment was found to be sufficient to show a marked deterioration in the verbal fluency of the patients.
In fact, ongoing further preliminary analysis on the data also indicated that there might be an increase in death rates because of the use of neuroleptics.
"It is very clear that even over a six-month period of treatment, there is no benefit from neuroleptics in treating the behaviour in people with Alzheimer's disease when the symptoms are mild. For people with more severe behavioural symptoms, balancing the potential benefits against adverse effects is more difficult," BBC quoted Ballard, as saying.
"These results are deeply troubling and highlight the urgent need to develop better treatments," said Rebecca Wood, of the Alzheimer's Research Trust.
According to the trust, long-term continuous prescription of neuroleptics should be given only to dementia patients with severe behavioural problems, and even this should be a last resort after non-drug methods have been tried and have failed.
The study is published in the journal Public Library of Science Medicine.