September 3, 2008

Antipsychotic meds linked to stroke

[Posted: Fri 29/08/2008 by Deborah Condon]

All drugs used to treat psychosis are linked to an increased risk of stroke, the results of a new study indicate.

Psychosis is a mental disorder characterised by a loss of contact with reality, such as schizophrenia. Psychotic symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions and severe thought disturbances.

Previous research has shown that second generation antipsychotic drugs can increase the chances of patients having a stroke. However until now, the risk associated with newer first generation antipsychotic drugs has been unknown.

A team of UK researchers examined data from a GP database, which contained the clinical information of more than six million patients registered at over 400 GP practices throughout the UK.

They assessed the effect of exposure to antipsychotic medication on the incidence of stroke in almost 6,800 patients. All of the patients had suffered a stroke and had been prescribed at least one prescription antipsychotic drug between January 1988 and the end of 2002.

The study found that during periods when patients were receiving an antipsychotic drug, they were 1.7 times more likely to have a stroke.

This risk was even higher for those with dementia. They were 3.5 times more likely to have a stroke while taking antipsychotic medication.

The likelihood of having a stroke was slightly higher among people taking second generation antipsychotics, compared to those taking the newer drugs.

The study did not look at the specific mechanisms linking the drugs to stroke.

“We have established that all types of antipsychotics carry an increased risk, although the risk might be somewhat higher with the second generation drugs.

“We reaffirm that the risks associated with antipsychotic use in patients with dementia generally outweigh the potential benefits and in this patient group, use of antipsychotic drugs should be avoided wherever possible,” the researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said.

Details of these findings are published in the British Medical Journal.