Reducing dosages of Risperdal and other antipsychotic medications may significantly improve the lives of some dementia patients, a recent study finds.
A report on September 10th from Global News in Canada, a pilot project from Alberta Health Services found that when use of Zyprexa, Seroquel, Haldol and Risperdal were lowered at 11 long-term care facilities in the area, healthcare providers saw a substantial difference in patients. “We’re seeing that the residents are coming alive,” said an affiliate at Covenant Health.
One 98-year old woman involved in the study was prescribed Risperdal for years, during which time she made repetitive noises and wasn’t able to eat or drink on her own. After she was taken off the medication, her family said she is now able to do both, and has exhibited other remarkable changes. “On her 98th birthday she proceeded to read her birthday cards and thank all the persons individually — again, another surprise,” her nephew said.
One particular antipsychotic also been associated with male breast development, a condition referred to as Risperdal gynecomastia.
A nurse practitioner later quoted in the Legal Intelligencer goes on to say that a big misconception about antipsychotic drugs in dementia patients is that they effectively treat aggression, anxiety and sleep disorders that go along with the condition.
“I think we thought antipsychotic medications treated dementia. They actually don’t,” she said.
The effects of Alberta Health’s pilot project have also resulted in significantly lessened costs related to drug use. The Youville Home, for example, is only paying $200 a month, compared to an estimated $3,300 it was paying before.
Controversy surrounding Risperdal and other medications is continuing to grow throughout the U.S. At the end of last year, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, more than $2 million in claims related to its marketing of this medication and several others. The companies were treating the antipsychotic off-label to elderly patients with dementia and to children, before it was approved for pediatric uses in 2006, the federal government said. Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay approximately $2.2 billion in November 2013 to settle charges brought against them.
Risperdal has also been named in hundreds of lawsuits alleging male breast development. These claims are now pending in a consolidated litigation underway in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania.
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