Friday, October 13, 2006

Antipsychotics not good for Alzheimer's

Big Pharma (the pharmaceutical industry) is always trying to figure out ways to sell their most expensive drugs, whether they work or not. One of their scams has been the idea of using antipsychotics for Alzheimer's victims. Does that sound crazy? It is. Here's what the Washington Post has to say about it. Read the full article at this link.

Antipsychotic drugs that are widely used to calm agitated patients with Alzheimer's disease help very few of them, and those modest benefits are canceled out by the frequent side effects, a comprehensive government-funded study has found.

The surprising finding is expected to trigger a broad reevaluation of the widespread use of the drugs in patients with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. As many as a quarter of the Alzheimer's patients in nursing homes are prescribed the powerful drugs, even though they have never been formally approved for this purpose.

"I wish I could say the odds are better," said Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which funded the $17 million study. "This paper says most people are not going to be any different on these drugs than they would on placebo."

The researchers did not conclude that the drugs should never be used, and a minority of patients do benefit. But the study suggests that doctors would be well advised to prescribe the drugs sparingly and as a last resort, experts said.

The study is the latest to produce sobering data on the newer, expensive antipsychotics such as Zyprexa, Risperdal and Seroquel, which are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States at an annual cost of about $10 billion. Another government-funded study recently showed that the drugs were no better than an older and much cheaper drug called perphenazine in the treatment of schizophrenia.

Taken together, the government-sponsored clinical trials have highlighted two troublesome issues in the regulation and use of psychiatric medications in the United States.

The schizophrenia study showed that the short-term trials that pharmaceutical companies sponsor to gain Food and Drug Administration approval have limited value in telling doctors how patients will fare overall, or whether newer drugs are worth their higher cost.

The Alzheimer's study has revealed a different problem -- the extent to which physicians are prescribing and using medications in the absence of empirical data to guide them. None of the antipsychotic drugs is currently approved for Alzheimer's disease, and several short-term industry-sponsored clinical trials have failed to show a benefit. The FDA has required prominent "black box" warnings on the drugs' labels about side effects in elderly people following cases where the drugs were associated with strokes and death.

The article continues debunking this area. How much longer before the world realizes that the antidepressant emperor has not clothes?

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