Study suggests antipsychotics do not raise risk of stroke in Alzheimer's patients

July 22, 2004

LOS ANGELES, July 22, 2004 - Antipsychotic drugs do not seem to increase the risk of stroke or other adverse cerebrovascular events in agitated or psychotic people with Alzheimer's Disease, according to research presented today in a "Hot Topics" symposium at the 9th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders (ICAD) in Philadelphia, sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association.

Agitation is a common symptom in the more progressive stages of Alzheimer's disease, sometimes even advancing into full-blown psychosis--hallucinations, delusions, and more. Physicians have been prescribing antipsychotic medications to treat these symptoms for some time, but not all of them have been tested specifically on people with degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer's.

Lon Schneider, M.D., professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and a professor of gerontology at USC's Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, today presented data pooled from two recent studies of a fairly new atypical antipsychotic drug, quetiapine (brand name Seroquel, produced by AstraZeneca), to determine whether the drug increases risk of stroke or transient ischemic attack in people with Alzheimer's.

Schneider and his colleagues from the University of Rochester Medical Center, the Medical University of South Carolina and AstraZeneca looked at data from the two studies, which together followed 684 institutionalized patients with dementia, 86 percent of whom had Alzheimer's disease. The patients had an average age of 83 years, and were taking either quetiapine, haloperidol (Haldol, an older antipsychotic medication) or a placebo.

Very few of the patients on any of these regimens had a "cerebrovascular adverse event." In fact, just one of the 355 patients on quetiapine experienced such an event, as did just one of the 116 patients on haloperidol and four of the patients taking placebo. This translated to an incidence rate of 0.3 percent for quetiapine, 0.9 percent for haloperidol and 1.9 percent for placebo.

"Although the studies were not designed with the primary purpose of evaluating the incidence of these side effects and the sample sizes were small," Schneider said, "the data available so far are compatible with no increased risk for cerebrovascular adverse events with quetiapine in this population."
Lon Schneider, Pierre Tariot, Jacobo Mintzer, Margaret C. Minkwitz, Kate Zhong, "Cerebrovascular adverse events with quetiapine: a pooled analysis in elderly patients with dementia." 9th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders, Thursday, July 22, 2004.

University of Southern California

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