Study Challenges Aggressive Drug Treatment

Apparently, aggressively using antipsychotic medication to treat aggression is now in question, as reported by Benedict Carey of the New York Times:

Drugs Offer No Benefit in Curbing Aggression, Study Finds

The drugs most widely used to manage aggressive outbursts in intellectually disabled people are no more effective than placebos for most patients and may be less so, researchers report.

The finding, being published Friday, sharply challenges standard medical practice in mental health clinics and nursing homes in the United States and around the world.

In recent years, many doctors have begun to use the so-called antipsychotic drugs, which were developed to treat schizophrenia, as all-purpose tranquilizers to settle threatening behavior — in children with attention-deficit problems, college students with depression, older people with Alzheimer’s disease and intellectually handicapped people.

The new study tracked 86 adults with low I.Q.’s in community housing in England, Wales and Australia over more than a month of treatment. It found a 79 percent reduction in aggressive behavior among those taking dummy pills, compared with a reduction of 65 percent or less in those taking antipsychotic drugs.

The researchers focused on two drugs, Risperdal by Janssen, and an older drug, Haldol, but said the findings almost certainly applied to all similar medications. Such drugs account for more than $10 billion in annual sales, and research suggests that at least half of all prescriptions are for unapproved “off label� uses — often to treat aggression or irritation.

The authors said the results were quite likely to intensify calls for a government review of British treatment standards for such patients, and perhaps to prompt more careful study of treatment for aggressive behavior in patients with a wide variety of diagnoses.

Other experts said the findings were also almost certain to inflame a continuing debate over the widening use of antipsychotic drugs. Patient advocates and some psychiatrists say the medications are overused. [full text]

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One response

  1. i’ve seen risperdal used on the elderly for agitation. what would work better would be to improve staffing of nursing homes, so that patients are not left to sit alone so much, and it might not even cost more if you look at the big picture. however, drug companies carry more power with politicians than the elderly or health care workers. so far. we’ll see.

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