Study: Antipsychotic Drugs May be Linked to Higher Heart Attack Risk

Study: Antipsychotic Drugs May be Linked to Higher Heart Attack RiskThe results of a new study suggest that the use of antipsychotic drugs can lead to an elevated risk of heart attack in older patients being treated by the potentially dangerous drugs for dementia, HealthDay reports.

The study sought to assess the dangers of using antipsychotics in elderly patients, a practice commonly used to control symptoms of agitation, hallucinations and aggression in dementia patients. The study comes on the heels of previous studies that found use of these drugs could also be linked to a higher risk of stroke and death from several causes.

But until recently, the link between the drugs and heart attacks had been "poorly examined," researchers noted. Study author Dr. Antoine Pariente, of Universite Bordeaux Segalen in France, stated more extensive studies were needed to assess the link between the drug and the condition.

In the study, Pariente and his colleagues analyzed almost 11,000 patients older than 66 who were being treated with cholinesterase inhibitors for dementia, and were also prescribed antipsychotic drugs. All cases were in Quebec.

The researchers found that within one year of beginning treatment with the drugs, 1.3 percent of patients suffered a heart attack. When compared with patients who did not receive antipsychotics, the risk of heart attack was seen to be 2.19 times higher in the first 30 days, 1.62 times higher in the first 60 days, 1.36 times higher in the first 90 days and 1.15 times higher after the first year.

"Our study results indicate that the use of [antipsychotic medications] is associated with a modest increase in the risk of [heart attack] among community-dwelling older patients with treated dementia," the researchers noted. "The increased risk seems to be highest at the beginning of treatment and seems to decrease thereafter, with the first month of treatment accounting for the highest period of risk."

The study was published in the March 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Because [antipsychotic] use is frequent in patients with dementia … the increased risk of [heart attack] may have a major public health effect, which highlights the need for communicating such risk," the researchers concluded.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the term dementia does not describe one specific disease, but rather a collection of symptoms that can be caused by numerable disorders that affect the brain.