Friday, January 04, 2008

Study Shows Antipsychotic Drugs Offer No Benefit in Curbing Aggression

In Drugs Offer No Benefit in Curbing Aggression, Study Finds the New York Times reports the results of a study to be published today in the Lancet which tracked intellectually handicapped adults over more than a month of treatment. There was a 79 per cent reduction in aggressive behavior among those taking placebo pills. The group taking antipsychotic drugs saw a 65 percent or less reduction in aggressive behavior. The better results of the placebo group was attributed by one of the lead researchers to the extra attention the group members received during the study.

In the study, Dr. Peter J. Tyrer, a professor of psychiatry at Imperial College London, led a research team who assigned 86 people from ages 18 to 65 to one of three groups: one that received Risperdal; one that received another antipsychotic, the generic form of Haldol; and one that was given a placebo pill. Caregivers tracked the participants’ behavior. Many people with very low I.Q.’s are quick to anger and lash out at others, bang their heads or fists into the wall in frustration, or singe the air with obscenities when annoyed.

After a month, people in all three groups had settled down, losing their temper less often and causing less damage when they did. Yet unexpectedly, those in the placebo group improved the most, significantly more so than those on medication.

In an interview, Dr. Tyrer said there was no reason to believe that any other antipsychotic drug used for aggression, like Zyprexa from Eli Lilly or Seroquel from AstraZeneca, would be more effective. Being in the study, with all the extra attention it brought, was itself what apparently made the difference, he said.

The NYT notes that the study sharply challenges standard practices in mental health clinics and nursing homes around the world.

Don't be surprised if researchers for the major pharmaceutical companies come out with studies soon to contradict or minimize the Tyer group's findings. Risperdal is used to treat aggression in people with a variety of mental health conditions including autism.

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