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Drug combination speeds up Alzheimer's

Use of a combination of sedatives and antipsychotics seems to strongly accelerate the progression of Alzheimer's disease, writes Daniel Cressey.

Researchers from the UK and Greece found the drug classes raised the risk of deterioration separately, and when used

together increased it fourfold.

Study leader Dr John Ellul, a clinical researcher in neurology at the University of Patras in Greece, said: 'Our findings have implications for both clinicians and triallists. Most importantly, clinicians should carefully weigh any potential benefits of antipsychotics and benzodiazepines, especially in combination, against the risk of increased decline.'

Dr Ellul's observational study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, also found that drugs licensed for dementia reduced deterioration, but less than statins did.

'It is reassuring that the drugs licensed for Alzheimer's disease do seem to slow decline over a year, but clinicians may be sobered by the observation that the effect size is smaller than that found for statins.'

The study followed 224 patients of a mean age of 82.3 years for 12 months. Those taking antipsychotic drugs had a 2.7-fold increased risk of decline and those taking sedatives had a 2.8-fold increased risk.

Patients taking both were at 3.9-fold increased risk of deterioration. Drugs licensed for dementia, statins and drugs affecting the renin-angiotensin system had a protective effect, with reductions in risk of 51, 88, and 69 per cent respectively.

• Expert advice on dementia at

our Clinical Challenges seminar on 17 April – full details on page 58

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