London: Research has found that dementia patients who are being treated with antipsychotic drugs will be better off with simple painkillers.
The British study concluded that painkillers considerably decrease anxiety in dementia patients.
Antipsychotic drugs used to treat the dementia symptom of agitation unfortunately have risky side effects. The Alzheimer’s Society wants doctors to consider other types of treatment.
According to researchers, 150,000 patients in the UK are needlessly prescribed antipsychotics, which increase the risk of stroke or even death apart from having a powerful sedative effect. Theses drugs are given to aggressive dementia patients.
Researchers from Kings College, London, studied 352 dementia patients. They gave painkillers with every meal to half of them while the rest were made to continue with their usual treatments.
The researchers stated that after eight weeks, the group taking painkillers had their agitation reduced by 17 % which was better than the treatment with antipsychotics.
The researchers decided that if patient’s pain was properly managed, doctors could reduce the number of prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs.
Professor Clive Ballard, one of the report authors and director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, termed the finding was significant.
“At the moment, pain is very under-treated in people with dementia, because it’s very hard to recognise,” he said.
“I think this could make a substantial difference to people’s lives – it could help them live much better with dementia.”
“Painkillers should only be given to patients under the supervision of a doctor”, he added.
The Alzheimer’s Society is issuing new guidance calling on doctors to think much harder before prescribing antipsychotics, and to look at prescribing pain medication instead.