If you are taking the latest generation of antipsychotic drugs, you are twice as likely to suffer sudden cardiac failure and death as people not using the medication, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The study found that the newer antipsychotic drugs are no safer than the older ones that have been largely replaced. Researchers also discovered that these drugs pose dangers for younger adults, as well as older adults, which had already been documented.
According to researchers of the largest study to date, there were about three sudden cardiac deaths per every 1,000 patient-years analyzed in the study. A patient-year is one patient taking the medication for one year. The study also indicated that the risk of death among patients taking larger doses of antipsychotic drugs increased. “It suggests that the drugs, when used, should be used at the lowest possible dose,” Wayne Ray, the lead investigator, said.
This particular study involved the atypical drugs, Seroquel, manufactured by AstraZeneca PLC; Zyprexa, manufactured by Eli Lilly & Co.; Risperdal, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson; and Clozaril, manufactured by Novartis AG. Researchers used “typical” drugs as a comparison, including haloperidol and thioridazine, which are both generic drugs.
Jerry Avorn, a professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School and co-author of the editorial included with the study, said that atypical antipsychotic drugs have been promoted as a safer option than the older, more conventional medications. He said that it is now apparent that the new generation of antipsychotic drugs has its own problems that are quite substantial. The editorial that was attached to the study recommended that such drugs should be “reduced sharply” among children and elderly patients.
A large amount of research has been conducted regarding the safety, cost and effectiveness of so-called atypical antipsychotic drugs. The use of antipsychotic drugs is high in the United States. In 2007, sales of antipsychotic drugs in the U.S. were $13.23 billion, according to IMS Health Inc., a health-care information and consulting company.
In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started requiring drug makers of atypical drugs to add a “black-box” warning on labels to indicate that elderly patients with dementia taking such drugs had a higher risk of premature death. This requirement came after the FDA reviewed various studies.
“The thinking that these atypical drugs were free of risk of sudden cardiac death seems to be incorrect,” said Dr. Ray.