Donít use antipsychotics routinely to treat agitation and aggression in people with dementia
Anne Corbett, Alistair Burns, Clive Ballard
November 3, 2014
The bottom line
Behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia such as agitation and aggression are commonly treated with atypical antipsychotic drugs, which are associated with severe side effects. However, there is increasing evidence of potential harms associated with use of these drugs in people with dementia, and guidelines increasingly recommend restricting their use. In Europe, only risperidone is currently licensed for use in dementia and only for up to six weeks in patients with severe aggression, defined as causing risk or severe distress, which has not responded to other treatments. No antipsychotics are approved for this patient group in the United States. Best practice guidelines, including National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines in the United Kingdom and American Psychiatric Association guidelines in the US, are similar. However, they do not distinguish between individual atypical antipsychotics and recommend a maximum treatment period of 12 weeks, except in exceptional circumstances.