Antipsychotics do little to benefit Alzheimer’s patients: study

Antipsychotic drugs prescribed to Alzheimer’s patients rarely improve their condition, a study appearing in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine suggests. The study compared the effects of Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa, Johnson & Johnson’s Risperdal and AstraZeneca’s Seroquel with that of a placebo. The study was comprised of 421 patients at 45 sites and conducted between 2001 and 2005. Study results showed that 21% of the patients taking the placebo had at least minimal improvement after 12 weeks while proportions of drug-taking patients exhibited similar changes -- 32% for Zyprexa, 29% for Risperdal and 26% for Seroquel. Researchers said the difference between the placebo and drugs wasn’t statistically significant and was offset by the higher percentage of patients who had to discontinue the drugs because of side effects. The researchers concluded, “There is no large clinical benefit of treatment (with the drugs) compared with placebo.” The study’s lead author, Dr. Lon Schneider of the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine said in an interview he thinks it is still worth trying such drugs in Alzheimer’s patients because “they work in some cases and there aren’t great alternatives.” Dr. Bruce Kinon, a research psychiatrist at Eli Lilly told The Wall Street Journal the study findings reflect “difficulties in treating these patients” and show that Alzheimer’s symptoms are different than those of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, for which Zyprexa is approved. Spokesmen for AstraZeneca and J&J would not comment on the study findings, The Journal reported.