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Pneumonia risk rises for people with Alzheimer’s taking antipsychotics

Taking antipsychotic drugs increases the risk of pneumonia in people with Alzheimer’s disease, say researchers from the University of Eastern Finland. 
Antipsychotics increase pneumonia risk in people with Alzheimer's

Taking antipsychotic drugs increases the risk of pneumonia in people with Alzheimers disease, say researchers from the University of Eastern Finland.

Antipsychotics have been linked to an increased risk of pneumonia in several studies, but the researchers said studies among people with dementia have been scarce.

To investigate the link, they studied a nationwide register of deaths from pneumonia in Finland between 2005 and 2012, which included 60,584 people with a clinically verified diagnosis of Alzheimers disease.

Those who had schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were excluded from the study, and the results were compared to a matched sample without Alzheimers disease.

The researchers found that antipsychotic use was associated with a two-fold increase in pneumonia in people with Alzheimers disease, regardless of age, treatment duration, choice

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Taking antipsychotic drugs increases the risk of pneumonia in people with Alzheimer’s disease, say researchers from the University of Eastern Finland. 

Antipsychotics increase pneumonia risk in people with Alzheimer's
Those with Alzheimer's disease taking antipsychotic drugs are more susceptible
to pneumonia, research has found. Photo: IStock

Antipsychotics have been linked to an increased risk of pneumonia in several studies, but the researchers said studies among people with dementia have been scarce. 

To investigate the link, they studied a nationwide register of deaths from pneumonia in Finland between 2005 and 2012, which included 60,584 people with a clinically verified diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Those who had schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were excluded from the study, and the results were compared to a matched sample without Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers found that antipsychotic use was associated with a two-fold increase in pneumonia in people with Alzheimer’s disease, regardless of age, treatment duration, choice of medication or comorbidities. 

The risk is highest at the beginning of treatment, and when the medication is used long term, so the risk-benefit balance should be carefully considered when antipsychotics are prescribed, the researchers said, and the treatment period should be as short as clinically possible.


Tolppanen A-M et al (2016) Antipsychotic use and risk of hospitalisation or death due to pneumonia in persons with and without Alzheimer’s disease. Chest. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2016.06.004.

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