Common antidepressant used to treat dementia may increase risk of death warns major study

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“The data from this study do not support using mirtazapine as a treatment for agitation in dementia.”

Dr Richard Oakley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society said: “Unnecessary prescribing of antipsychotics to people with dementia is dangerous and associated with a higher risk of death, which is why we’ve been campaigning hard to reduce levels since the late 90s, saving tens of thousands of lives.

“The gold star treatments for agitation don’t involve drugs and are tailored to the person – like arts and crafts or movement to music. In recent years antidepressants – like mirtazapine – have been considered a fallback if non-drug approaches don’t work.

“While only a small study, these results suggest a rethink is needed. Not only was the drug ineffective at reducing agitation, it was associated with more deaths, suggesting mirtazapine should be avoided in Alzheimer’s – and research carried out to understand its effects in other types of dementia.”

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