November 12, 2009 / 1:24 PM / 10 years ago

UK study warns against anti-psychotics for dementia

* Most dementia patients given anti-psychotics needlessly

* Report could inform clinical practice around the world

* Global dementia cases seen doubling to 66 mln by 2030

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, Nov 12 (Reuters) - More than 140,000 dementia patients in Britain are given anti-psychotic drugs needlessly and overprescribing of the medicines is linked to an extra 1,800 deaths in elderly people each year, a report said on Thursday.

The government-backed review showed that only around 36,000 of around 180,000 dementia patients prescribed anti-psychotics got any benefit from them — findings it said could affect clinical practice in dementia across the world.

“Anti-psychotics are used too often in dementia,” Sube Banerjee, the report’s author and a professor of mental health and ageing at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said in a statement.

He said use of anti-psychotics drugs for dementia should be cut to a third of current levels in Britain and said his study would “provide international leadership in this complex clinical area.”

Alzheimer’s Disease International predicted in September that more than 35 million people around the world will suffer from dementia in 2010. That number is expected to almost double every 20 years, to 66 million in 2030 and more than 115 million in 2050. [ID:nN20262573]

Anti-psychotic drugs include generic treatments like thioridazine, chlorpromazine, haloperidol, trifluorperazine and Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ.N) Risperdal, Eli Lilly and Co’s (LLY.N) Zyprexa, and Seroquel, made by AstraZeneca (AZN.L), which are among the top-selling drugs worldwide.

Such medicines have increasingly been used to treat the personality changes and aggression often associated with dementia, an incurable brain disease that worsens over time and whose most common form is Alzheimer’s disease.

There is no cure for dementia and the costs of illness are forecast to rise dramatically in the coming decades. Experts cite a 2005 study from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute that estimated dementia cost global economies $315 billion a year, $227 billion for rich countries and $88 billion for low- and middle-income countries.

Neil Hunt, chief executive of Britain’s Alzheimer’s Society said the report supported his view that anti-psychotics “should only ever be used as a last resort”.

“The scandalous over prescription of antipsychotic drugs leads to an estimated 1,800 deaths a year,” he said. “It must end.”

British researchers published a study in January showing that antipsychotic drugs prescribed to treat aggression in older Alzheimer’s patients appeared to significantly raise their risk of dying prematurely. [ID:nL8238277] (editing by David Cowell)

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