The Wall Street Journal reports that since doctors don't have many options for treating older Parkinson's patients with psychotic symptoms, many are using antipsychotics, which are approved to treat other psychotic issues such as schizophrenia.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, indicated that half of Parkinson's patients suffering from psychosis had been prescribed an antipsychotic. These drugs include AstraZeneca's Seroquel and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Abilify, the news source said.
Still, the study suggests that such prescriptions could be dangerous, as the pattern remained relatively consistent between 2002 and 2008, even though the US Food and Drug Administration issued a "black box" warning for the drugs in 2005, indicating the medications increased the risk of death in older patients with dementia.
The study authors reportedly examined figures from the Department of Veteran Affairs for fiscal 2002 and 2008, according to the news source. Dr. Daniel Weintraub, the study's lead author, said that the use of antipsychotics in older patients with Parkinson's seemed to worsen symptoms of the condition such as shaking and muscle stiffness.
READ MORE LEGAL NEWS
Concerns about the use of antipsychotics such as Abilify are nothing new, as the FDA's 2005 warning included 17 different trials that suggested patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with the medications were 1.6 times more likely to succumb to infections or heart issues than those who had not taken the drugs, according to the news source.
Despite this, however, Americans reportedly spent $16.1 billion on the medications in 2010, meaning they were the fifth-most popular drug class.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, Abilify, which comes in tablet form, can also lead to common side effects such as headache, nervousness, increased appetite and weight gain.