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 Some Antipsychotic Drugs Are Linked to Deaths
 Friday, December 14, 2001 


   CHICAGO -- Patients taking older antipsychotic drugs for mental illnesses
such as schizophrenia run a higher risk of sudden cardiac death, a study 

    The research on 481,744 Medicaid patients in Tennessee supports smaller
studies suggesting that these drugs can cause a glitch in the heart's
electrical rhythm and trigger a deadly irregular heartbeat.

    The Vanderbilt University study compared patients on drugs such as
Haldol and Mellaril with those not using antipsychotics.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Mellaril has been taken off market due to cardiac risks

    Those on the drugs faced double the risk of sudden cardiac death during
a five-year follow-up.

    Patients who already had severe heart disease faced more than triple the

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
double the risk of sudden heart death for those on such drugs with
no pre-existing heart disease, triple the risk for those WITH
pre-existing heart disease, and all of this for treatment of mental and
emotional problems, never for an actual disease. Is this risk/benefit
ratio ever acceptable?

    The study involved drugs available before 1994 and did not include
newer, more popular antipsychotics favored by many doctors and patients
because they are less likely to cause people to develop tics.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
tardive dyskinesias: involuntary, incessant, fatiguing, writhing
movements are the most common of involuntary movement disorders caused
both by old and by new, atypical, anti-psychotics, not simple tics as in
idiopathic Tourette’s syndrome or as can be induced by

    Data from other studies suggest some of the newer drugs might also cause
rhythm disturbances; those drugs include risperidone, a top-seller sold as
Risperdal by Janssen Pharmaceutica, which helped fund the study.

    The labels on Haldol and Mellaril list heart irregularities among the
potential side effects. The researchers said more study is needed on newer

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
instead of saying that these deaths and CNS side effects are
unacceptable as treatment for emotional symptoms that are not diseases
at all, industry types, and researchers they have bought and paid for
always say "more study is needed." Further, in such industry-sponsored
studies, the rates of side effects—death and others—are invariably
understated, if mentioned at all. Finally, it cannot be stressed to
much that the rates of multiple diagnoses and multiple drugs
(polypharmacy) are rapidly increasing in todays profit-seeking health
care marketplace. Not only are patients with a diagnosis of
schizophrenia receiving such potent, poisonous, antipsychotic, but many
other patients as well, especially those with multiple diagnoses,
including children as well.

   Their findings appear in December's  (2001) issue of the Archives of General

    Schizophrenia affects about 1 percent of the world's population,
including more than 2 million people nationwide.

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