Many Alzheimer's patients are taking two or more psychotropic drugs

A new study conducted at the University of Finland has found that up to 50% of people with Alzheimer’s disease take a psychotropic drug and that one-fifth use a combination of two or more psychotropic drugs.

AlzheimerImage Credit: DedMityay / Shutterstock

These drugs are commonly used to treat the behavioral and psychological dementia symptoms seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

However, there are concerns over the benefit and safety of these drugs, especially the use of more than one psychotropic.

As reported in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, Sirpa Hartikainen and colleagues studied the prevalence of psychotropic drug use and psychotropic polypharmacy (PPP).

Using logic regression analysis, they investigated the associations with PPP among people with and without Alzheimer’s, from five years before diagnosis to four years after diagnosis.

Data available for 70, 719 people was pulled from the MEDALZ cohort, which included all community-dwelling individuals who had been diagnosed with the disease in Finland between 2005 and 2011.

Among people who already had Alzheimer’s five years before being diagnosed, psychotropic drug use was significantly more common, compared with people who did not have Alzheimer’s.

The prevalence of psychotropic drug use increased during the course of Alzheimer’s disease.

The proportion of people with Alzheimer’s using two or more psychotropics five years before diagnosis was 5.9%, a figure that increased to 18.3% four years following diagnosis.

The most common combination was the use of antipsychotics with an antidepressant.

Factors associated with the use of PPP were younger age (less than 75 years), female gender and a history of psychiatric illness.

The authors also report that the use of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors was inversely associated with PPP, whereas the use of memantine was associated with an increased risk of PPP.

Concomitant use of psychotropics is concerning, as previous studies have shown that there is a link between several adverse events and psychotropic drug use among older persons and persons with dementia.”

Professor Sirpa Hartikainen

In many countries, healthcare guidelines advise that people with Alzheimer’s be prescribed an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor if there is no contraindication for use.


This article is based on a press release, originally published on Alpha Galileo and the research study itself.

Sally Robertson

Written by

Sally Robertson

Sally has a Bachelor's Degree in Biomedical Sciences (B.Sc.). She is a specialist in reviewing and summarising the latest findings across all areas of medicine covered in major, high-impact, world-leading international medical journals, international press conferences and bulletins from governmental agencies and regulatory bodies. At News-Medical, Sally generates daily news features, life science articles and interview coverage.


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