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BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 08 December 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1361
  1. Alison Tonks, associate editor (

    Conventional antipsychotic drugs are just as dangerous as newer agents

    In April this year, the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) warned doctors that atypical antipsychotic drugs increased the risk of death among elderly people with dementia. Conventional antipsychotic drugs look just as dangerous, however, according to a recent study.


    Detailed analysis of data from a prescription benefits programme for elderly people in Pennsylvania found 22 890 men and women aged 65 years or older who started taking an antipsychotic drug between 1994 and 2003. By 180 days after the start of treatment, 18% of those given a conventional drug were dead, compared with 15% of those given an atypical drug (relative risk 1.37, 95% CI 1.27 to 1.49).

    The risk associated with older drugs such as chlorpromazine, thioridazine, and haloperidol was highest during the first 40 days of treatment (1.56, 1.37 to 1.78) and seemed independent of sex, age, and 20 other possible confounders.

    Conventional …

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