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Four Commonly Used Antipsychotic Drugs Don’t Work

Dr. Dilip Jeste, the director of UC San Diego's Stein Institute for Research on Aging, talks to KPBS about his study.

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Antipsychotic drugs are widely prescribed to treat dementia-related mood disorders, but a new study finds they're not effective.

— Four commonly prescribed antipsychotic drugs for older adults aren't effective and cause side effects. That's the conclusion of a new study from UC San Diego published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

There are no FDA-approved drugs for behavioral problems associated with dementia. Doctors often prescribe medications originally intended to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The UC San Diego study examined whether four of the most commonly used anti-psychotic drugs actually work for these other conditions. The medications were aripiprazole (Abilify), olazapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel) and risperidone (Risperdal).

Dr. Dilip Jeste directs UC San Diego's Stein Institute for Research and Aging. He said that over a recent five-year period, doctors only used the drugs on a particular patient for an average of six months.

"That means that these drugs were not effective," he explained. "They did not improve the symptoms significantly overall. And even worse is that they had side effects."

Within two years of treatment, a quarter of the patients developed serious adverse side effects.

Jeste said use of these anti-psychotics in older adults needs to be closely monitored. And he argued more effective treatments are desperately needed.

"What is happening unfortunately is that this population is being largely ignored by researchers, including the pharmaceutical industry," Jeste said.

An estimated 4 million Americans have dementia. About half suffer from delusions or other psychoses.

Maureen Cavanaugh, Pat Finn and Peggy Pico contributed to this report.


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