March 12, 2015

Research by Dr. Helen Kales, shows that antipsychotics are less effective than nondrug treatments

Research by Dr. Helen Kales, U-M Professor of Psychiatry, shows that antipsychotics are much less effective than nondrug treatments, such as caregiver interventions, in controlling symptoms of dementia.


When we think of Alzheimer's disease or other dementias, we think of the loss of memory or the inability to recognize familiar faces, places, and things. But for caregivers, the bigger challenge often is coping with the other behaviors common in dementia: wandering, sleeplessness and anxiety or aggression.

Using antipsychotic drugs to try to ameliorate these symptoms has been common. According to a report released Monday from the Government Accountability Office, 1 in 3 dementia patients in nursing homes receives antipsychotics. Outside of nursing homes, 1 in 7 dementia patients are prescribed the drugs.

Antipsychotics are much less effective than non-drug treatments in controlling the symptoms of dementia, according to a study published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal. Dr. Helen Kales, a psychiatrist who directs the University of Michigan's Program for Positive Aging, examined more than two decades of scientific studies, along with her coauthors, Laura N. Gitlin and Dr. Constantine Lyketsos, both of Johns Hopkins University. They say the treatments that showed the best results were the ones that trained caregivers how to communicate calmly and clearly, and to introduce hobbies or other activities for the patient. The treatments also followed up with caregivers. Read more.