Sedatives commonly prescribed to Alzheimer's and dementia patients are leading to their premature death, new research reported in the Guardian concludes. The drugs, called neuroleptics, combat the diseases' more alarming symptoms, including agitation and hallucinations. Their widespread off-label use in the U.K.—where they're licensed only for schitzophrenia—is being called a scandal.
In the study, patients were twice as likely to die if they were taking naeroleptics, which the Guardian says are prescribed to 45 percent of patients in British nursing homes. "If this was a massive increase in mortality in children," lead researcher Clive Ballard says, "there would be an outcry. Older people aren't seen as a priority."