Medications used to stabilize mood and control challenging behaviors have greater risk of death for the elderly than previously understood
Education is critical to understanding how best to care for the aging members of society. At TOMBOT SCIENCE, we curate the most important scientific research related to extending and improving quality of life for seniors with dementia and mild cognitive impairment.
Research published in JAMA Psychiatry shows a significant increase in risk of mortality for seniors with dementia in the first 180 days of beginning use of antipsychotic and psychotropic medications.
Despite black box warnings of increased risk of mortality, physicians still prescribe antipsychotics in very large numbers, explains lead study author Donovan T. Maust, MD, MS, assistant professor at the University of Michigan. Maust and his co-authors, using Veterans Administration data from more than 46,000 patients, found that 87% of patients received antipsychotic medications. Compared to matching patients who were non-users of antipsychotics, antidepressants, or anticonvulsants for a period of at least 6 months, patients taking these medications were as much as 4 times as likely to die in the first 180 days.
This study confirms previous studies that antipsychotic and psychotropic medications present increased risk of mortality for Seniors with dementia. Yet these same seniors may exhibit behaviors that are dangerous to their health or prevent them from receiving medical care. Balancing the medical tenet: “First, do no harm” with the need to prevent harm self-inflicted by the patient is a challenge physicians who treat seniors with dementia face every day. This study may encourage further investigation into non-pharmacological therapies for challenging behaviors.