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No "Magic Pill" Lessens Alzheimer's Devastating Effects

Alzheimer's disease is so incredibly difficult to treat once patients are in its advanced stages, I'm not at all surprised most physicians -- and family members -- throw up their hands in total frustration and take the easy way out. Meaning toxic drugs being used to calm them down.

More often than not, drugs can often do far more harm than good. The same is true even when it comes to using drugs to lessen the behavioral problems that come with Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study featured in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association. They just don't work that well, but doctors feel enormous pressure to prescribe them anyway... Why?

  • Drugs like Prozac and Tegretol don't offer much relief, if any, researchers said, because they were designed for "treating" younger people, not older patients with advanced Alzheimer's.
  • Medications available to "treat" memory problems associated with Alzheimer's (cholinesterase inhibitors) did ease some symptoms. However, the more disruptive patients never seemed to get enough relief from them.
  • The atypical class of antipsychotic drugs (risperidone or olanzapine) made patients more sleepy but increased their risk of a stroke too.

The best treatments researchers found were far safer and saner than drugs: The natural calming power of pets as well as music therapy.

Journal of the American Medical Association Vol. 293 No. 5, February 2, 2005 596-608.

USA Today February 2, 2005

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