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Alzheimer's Society responds to BMJ debate: Does long term use of psychiatric drugs cause more harm than good?

Published 12 May 2015

In a debate article to be published in the BMJ on Tuesday 12 May 2015, two scientists argue whether long term use of psychiatric drugs cause more harm than good.

Peter Gotzsche says that psychiatric drugs are responsible for the deaths of more than half a million people aged 65 and older each year in the Western world.

Whilst Allan Young argues that evidence supports the long term use of psychiatric drugs and insists they are rigorously examined for safety before and after regulatory approval.

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer's Society said:

'In his article, Professor Gotzsche suggests dropping all "dementia drugs". In 2010, Alzheimer's Society campaigned hard for NICE to approve drugs such as Aricept for people with Alzheimer's disease. Since then, these drugs have been shown to provide real benefits for many people living with dementia, providing help with daily living.

'The use of anti-psychotic drugs on the other hand is an outdated way to treat symptoms of dementia like aggression. Although we appreciate these drugs are important for a minority of people with dementia, they can leave people heavily sedated, damage their quality of life and even lead to death and should only be used as a last resort.

'We welcome a debate on drugs, but we need to ensure that those drugs working well for people with dementia remain available to all who so desperately need them.'

- Ends -

Notes to editors:

  • 225,000 will develop dementia this year, that's one every three minutes
  • Alzheimer's Society research shows that 850,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia. In less than ten years a million people will be living with dementia. This will soar to two million people by 2051
  • Dementia costs the UK economy over £26 Billion per year. This is the equivalent of more than £30,000 per person with dementia. 
  • Alzheimer's Society champions the rights of people living with dementia and the millions of people who care for them 
  • Alzheimer's Society works in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Alzheimer's Society supports people to live well with dementia today and funds research to find a cure for tomorrow. We rely on voluntary donations to continue our vital work. You can donate now by calling 0845 306 0898 or visiting alzheimers.org.uk
  • Alzheimer's Society provides a National Dementia Helpline, the number is 0300 222 11 22 or visit alzheimers.org.uk