The study, funded by UK charity the Alzheimer’s Research Trust and carried out by researchers at Kings College London and at the Universities of Oxford and Newcastle, showed deterioration in patients’ verbal fluency and cognitive ability six months after treatment was started.
Findings were based on a five-year study involving 165 patients at nursing homes in the UK.
The neuroleptics in the study were thioridazine (Melleril), chlorpromazine (Largactil), haloperidol (Serenace), trifluoperazine (Stelazine) and risperidone (Risperdal). Patients continued to take their prescribed neuroleptic drug for 12 months or took a matched placebo.
Professor Clive Ballard, Professor of Age Related Disorders at King’s College London, and lead researcher on the project, said: ‘It is very clear that even over a six month period of treatment, there is no benefit from neuroleptics in treating the behaviour in people with Alzheimer’s disease when the symptoms are mild. This study provides an important evidence base to inform this decision-making process.’
Up to 60% of patients with Alzheimer’s disease in nursing homes are prescribed the drugs, also known as neuroleptics, as a treatment for behavioural symptoms such as aggression.