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The researchers found that the percentage of people aged 80 to 84 who received a prescription for an antipsychotic drug was twice that of people aged 65 to 69. This increase is occurring despite the known risks of serious side effects such as stroke, kidney damage, and death, they added.
"The results of the study suggest a need to focus on new ways to treat the underlying causes of agitation and confusion in the elderly," study author Dr. Mark Olfson, from the College of Physicians and Surgeons and Columbia University in New York City, said in a news release from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
"The public health community needs to give greater attention to targeted environmental and behavioral treatments rather than medications," he added.
The investigators reviewed the use of antipsychotics between 2006 and 2010. They found that about half of seniors who used antipsychotics, used the drugs more than 120 days in a year.
Antipsychotics are appropriate for treating certain mental disorders, the researchers said. But, more than three-quarters of seniors given a prescription for such drugs in 2010 had no documented mental disorder diagnosis that year, the study found.
For those who did have a diagnosed mental disorder and/or dementia, nearly half had dementia and received antipsychotics although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned that the drugs increase the risk of death in dementia patients.
"Typically, psychiatrists are more familiar with the properties of antipsychotic medications. However, about half of the people age 65 to 69 and only one fifth of those age 80 to 84 who were treated with antipsychotics received any of these prescriptions from psychiatrists," study co-author Michael Schoenbaum, from NIMH said in the news release.
The study was funded by NIMH and published Oct. 21 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
-- Robert Preidt
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