OBJECTIVE: The authors sought to determine the effects of conventional and atypical antipsychotic use on time to nursing home admission and time to death in a group of outpatients with mild to moderate probable Alzheimer's disease.
METHOD: The authors examined time to nursing home admission and time to death in 957 patients with the diagnosis of probable Alzheimer's disease who had at least one follow-up evaluation (mean follow-up time, 4.3 years [SD=2.7]; range, 0.78-18.0 years) using Cox proportional hazard models adjusted for age, gender, education level, dementia severity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, extrapyramidal signs, depression, psychosis, aggression, agitation, and dementia medication use.
RESULTS: A total of 241 patients (25%) were exposed to antipsychotics at some time during follow-up (conventional, N=138; atypical, N=95; both, N=8). Nursing home admission (63% compared with 23%) and death (69% compared with 34%) were more frequent in individuals taking conventional than atypical antipsychotics. In a model that included demographic and cognitive variables, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, incident strokes, and extrapyramidal signs, only conventional antipsychotic use was associated with time to nursing home admission. However, the association was no longer significant after adjustment for psychiatric symptoms. Psychosis was strongly associated with nursing home admission and time to death, but neither conventional nor atypical antipsychotics were associated with time to death.
CONCLUSIONS: The use of antipsychotic medications, both conventional and atypical, was not associated with either time to nursing home admission or time to death after adjustment for relevant covariates. Rather, it was the presence of psychiatric symptoms, including psychosis and agitation, that was linked to increased risk of institutionalization and death after adjustment for exposure to antipsychotics.