Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dementia drugs still prescribed, despite warnings

From the Globe and Mail:
Prescription rates of certain antipsychotic drugs given to seniors with dementia have increased significantly despite safety warnings in recent years, according to a new study that questions the effectiveness of the warning mechanisms used by drug makers and Health Canada.

The findings, published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, reveal that overall prescriptions of atypical antipsychotic drugs to elderly people suffering from dementia - many of whom live in nursing homes - jumped 20 per cent between 2002 and 2007. Three major safety warnings were issued during that period. "The point is the warnings had a limited impact," said Geoffrey Anderson, professor in the department of health policy, management and evaluation at the University of Toronto and an author of the study. "These are human beings ... It's our duty to protect the care for them."

Atypical antipsychotic drugs are a relatively new class of "second generation" antipsychotic drugs used to treat schizophrenia and other serious psychological problems.

Health Canada issued the first warning about the atypical antipsychotic drug risperidone, sold under the brand name Risperdal, in 2002 after studies showed it was associated with an increased risk of stroke in older dementia patients. Another warning was issued in 2004 about the atypical antipsychotic olanzapine, sold under the name Zyprexa, amid fears of increased risk of stroke and other health issues. ...more

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