Some with Alzheimer's better off staying on antipsychotics, study reports

October 18, 2012 by Denise Mann, Healthday Reporter
Some with alzheimer's better off staying on antipsychotics: study
Agitation, aggression more likely to return in those who stopped taking Risperdal, research shows.

(HealthDay)—People with Alzheimer's disease who take the antipsychotic drug risperidone (Risperdal) to help curb their agitation and aggression may see a return of these troublesome symptoms if they stop taking the medication, a new study suggests.

Not every person with Alzheimer's will become agitated and/or aggressive, but among those who do, these symptoms make it difficult for caregivers to manage them at home and often lead to nursing home admission and an increased risk of dying from the disease.

As it stands, these are only supposed to be taken for three to six months due to concerns about including , and movement difficulty. In recent years, the U.S. also placed a black-box warning on this class of medications warning that people with who take antipsychotics have a higher risk of dying.

"Caregivers should be aware of the increased mortality associated with these medications in people with dementia," said study author Dr. D.P. Devanand, director of the division of at Columbia Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City. However, he added, "if a patient is taking an antipsychotic and doing reasonably well without any major side effects, they should stay on it."

The new study, which appears in the Oct. 18 issue of the , sought to determine what happens when the medication is stopped among people who are doing well on it. The U.S. National Institutes of Health sponsored the trial.

Nursing home staff are tasked with providing written explanations if they choose to keep someone on one of these medications for longer than three to six months, Devanand noted. "One must be cautious about discontinuing the medication. If a person does well on it and there are not too many side effects, maybe they should stay on it for a while and be monitored closely," he said.

Stopping treatment resulted in a relapse of symptoms for those who had been doing well on the medication for four to eight months, the investigators found.

The new study included 180 patients with Alzheimer's disease who showed signs of agitation and aggression. The patients, from eight U.S. centers, all received risperidone for 16 weeks in the first phase of the study. After that, the 110 patients who did well on the drug were assigned to take either risperidone or an inactive placebo. Those who were switched to a placebo were twice as likely to relapse when compared to participants who continued taking risperidone, the study found. What's more, the rate of side effects and death did not differ among participants.

Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of the division of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, said that deciding how long to keep a person with Alzheimer's on an antipsychotic drug isn't an easy decision to make.

But "if a person is responding to the drug, it makes sense to stick with it," said Kennedy, who was not involved with the study.

Treating agitation and aggression in someone with Alzheimer's can make a big difference for the patient and the caregiver, he added. "These patients can be dangerous and very difficult to care for," Kennedy noted. "This is a very important study."

Explore further: Specific antipsychotic drugs increase risk of death in elderly dementia patients

More information: Learn more about agitation among people with Alzheimer's disease at the Alzheimer's Association.

Related Stories

Specific antipsychotic drugs increase risk of death in elderly dementia patients

February 23, 2012
Nursing home residents over the age of 65 who take certain antipsychotic medication for dementia are at an increased risk of death, suggests a research paper published today in the British Medical Journal.

Alzheimer's drug fails to reduce significant agitation

May 2, 2012
A drug prescribed for Alzheimer's disease does not ease clinically significant agitation in patients, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the U.K., U.S. and Norway. This is the first randomized controlled ...

Recommended for you

Multi-gene test predicts Alzheimer's better than APOE E4 alone

September 22, 2017
A new test that combines the effects of more than two dozen genetic variants, most associated by themselves with only a small risk of Alzheimer's disease, does a better job of predicting which cognitively normal older adults ...

Personality changes don't precede clinical onset of Alzheimer's, study shows

September 21, 2017
For years, scientists and physicians have been debating whether personality and behavior changes might appear prior to the onset of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

Newly ID'd role of major Alzheimer's gene suggests possible therapeutic target

September 20, 2017
Nearly a quarter century ago, a genetic variant known as ApoE4 was identified as a major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease—one that increases a person's chances of developing the neurodegenerative disease by up to 12 ...

Is the Alzheimer's gene the ring leader or the sidekick?

September 15, 2017
The notorious genetic marker of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, ApoE4, may not be a lone wolf.

Potential noninvasive test for Alzheimer's disease

September 6, 2017
In the largest and most conclusive study of its kind, researchers have analysed blood samples to create a novel and non-invasive way of helping to diagnose Alzheimer's disease and distinguishing between different types of ...

Researchers unlock the molecular origins of Alzheimer's disease

September 6, 2017
A "twist of fate" that is minuscule even on the molecular level may cause the development of Alzheimer's disease, VCU researchers have found.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

DanielHaszard
not rated yet Oct 19, 2012
Risperdal reproached.
Remember-Zyprexa Diabetes connection conflict of interest.
Eli Lilly made $67 billion to date,paid $1.4 billion in criminal fines.
Thousands got diabetes as Zyprexa side effect and have to take Lilly insulin to treat the diabetes that was caused by their Zyprexa.
Eli Lilly Zyprexa can ruin your Pancreas and make you a type 2 diabetic in just a few months of use.I took it 1996-2000 and now am a diabetic for it.
'Atypical' antipsychotic Zyprexa is the worst offender of them all.Google-Haszard Zyprexa - got a page up.
-Daniel Haszard

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.