Antipsychotic medications such as Risperdal (risperidone) and Seroquel (quetiapine) are prescribed to elderly people with dementia around the world to manage responsive behaviours which could be and should be addressed with non-pharmacological approaches. These antipsychotic medications severely impact the well being of elderly people with dementia; they also have significant health risks.
My mother was first prescribed Risperdal (risperidone) by her family doctor in February 2012 at the lowest possible dose; it was to reduce anxiety associated with dementia. She began also taking Seroquel (quetiapine) after her geriatrician prescribed a low dose of it for her in April 2012; it was to help her (and I) sleep through the night.
The dosages of both drugs were increased shortly after Mom moved into a nursing home in November 2012. I asked that the medications be reduced. They were not. The dosages were again increased on several occasions over a period of months to address responsive behaviours, which I know from personal experience and research shows are largely the result of environmental factors and the approach of caregivers and nursing staff, not of the disease itself.
The high doses of antipsychotics severely impacted my mother. I witnessed the effects, and I continued advocating against them being given to her, but I was unsuccessful in my efforts to stop the prescriptions. I then began further researching their use in elderly populations in the hope that I might be helpful to others if I could not help her. What I have seen and learned enrages me. I am not the only one seeking the truth about these drugs. There is a growing tide of experts pushing for non-pharmacological approaches to caring for people living with dementia.
Pioneers such as Teepa Snow are providing care partners with the skills we need to preserve the dignity of people living with dementia and to help them engage life until the end instead of sedating them into compliance. Now the truth about one of the drugs — Risperdal — has begun to unfold (as I coincidentally intuited on February 2, 2015).
In 2015, healthcare journalist Steven Brill released chapter by chapter (via The Huffington Post), an online “docubook” chronicling Johnson & Johnson’s unrelenting and profit-driven marketing efforts to push Risperdal onto children and the elderly when the drug’s risks for both these populations by far outweighs its unproven benefits.
You can read Brill’s docuseries here. Be prepared to be pissed off.
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