Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Geriatrics and Antipsychotics

On the heels of my ground-scuffing post on adolescents and antidepressants, the NYTimes has published a piece on the overuse of antipsychotic medications in the elderly:

The use of antipsychotic drugs to tamp down the agitation, combative behavior and outbursts of dementia patients has soared, especially in the elderly. Sales of newer antipsychotics like Risperdal, Seroquel and Zyprexa totaled $13.1 billion in 2007, up from $4 billion in 2000, according to IMS Health, a health care information company.

Part of this increase can be traced to prescriptions in nursing homes. Researchers estimate that about a third of all nursing home patients have been given antipsychotic drugs.

The increases continue despite a drumbeat of bad publicity. A 2006 study of Alzheimer’s patients found that for most patients, antipsychotics provided no significant improvement over placebos in treating aggression and delusions.

Is there anything psychiatrists won't try to cure with a scrip? Heh, just kidding, but the off-label use of psychiatric medications is disturbing, as I saw on my own psychiatry rotation. Sometimes, I wondered whether we were truly living up to the maxim of "do no harm."

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