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Antipsychotics Beneficial For Some Individuals With Alzheimer’s

A new study suggests that people with Alzheimer’s on the drug risperidone, an antipsychotic drug often prescribed as the brand name Risperdal, may be better off continuing to take the drug if they have not experienced negative side effects.

Because of the potential side effects, risperidone is only recommended to be prescribed for three to six months. After that point, a written explanation is required to continue the drug. A study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and funded by the National Institutes of Health, investigated the effects of discontinuing the medication among individuals who had seen improvements as a result of the drug. Researchers prescribed risperidone to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease who showed signs of agitation and aggression. After 16 weeks, researchers put half of the individuals who did well on the drug on a placebo. The other half continued the treatment. The study found that those on the placebo were twice as likely to have their symptoms return. The rate of side effects and death were equal among the two groups.

Researchers warned that antipsychotics can carry the risk of serious side effects and should not be used on all individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, but discontinuing medication that has achieved benefits is not always the right choice. "One must be cautious about discontinuing the medication,” said study author Dr. D.P. Devanand, director of the division of geriatric psychiatry at Columbia Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City.  “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."

For more information, read the article: Some With Alzheimer's Better Off Staying on Antipsychotics: Study  Or, read the full study: Relapse Risk after Discontinuation of Risperidone in Alzheimer's Disease.

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