A five year study undertaken by the King's College, London revealed that certain drugs prescribed for dementia is leading to premature death in many people. This study was funded by the Alzheimer's Research Trust.
According to this research, continued use of sedatives called neuroleptics could increase the risk of early deaths in people suffering from Alzheimer's and other types of dementia. Generally neuroleptics are recommended to be given to people suffering from schizophrenia. But they are also given to help control the symptoms of Alzheimer's and dementia involving agitation, hallucination and erratic behavior.
This study suggests that neuroleptics are of little benefit to people with milder symptoms and also increases their risk of early deaths. It is reported that they are given to 45% of people living in care homes.
In the study, a group of 165 patients suffering from Alzheimer's were randomly asked to take one of three types of neuroleptics or a placebo. It was found that after 2 years, 45% of those who took the neuroleptics died as against the 22% who took the placebo. Similar pattern of results were observed after a three year and three and a half years period indicating that on an average, death happens six months earlier when someone is on neuroleptics.
Clive Ballard, the lead researcher of the study reported that these drugs result in a lot of side effects like stroke and chest infections. In 2004, a warning was issued by the medicines watchdog that two types of neuroleptics, olanzapine and risperidone should not be prescribed to Alzheimer's patients due to an increased risk of stroke and death.
But the Alzheimer's Society presented evidence in 2005 that a neuroleptic drug was given to 100,000 people suffering from dementia. Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's society said that neuroleptics must be given only as a last resort.
Professor Mayur Lakhani, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners said that neuroleptics are used only as a last resort when patients suffer from severe episodes and not routinely prescribed to patients with dementia.