More than half of persons with Alzheimer’s disease aged 90 years or more use psychotropic drugs

Psychotropic drug use is rather common among persons aged 90 years of more diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease compared with those who were diagnosed at younger age, concludes study conducted at University of Eastern Finland. Persons aged 90 years or more used antipsychotics 5 times and antidepressants 2.5 times more often than those without the disease in the same age group. The results were published in Age and Ageing journal.

56% of persons aged 90 years or more with Alzheimer’s disease use psychotropic drugs whereas the same figure was 48% among younger persons with Alzheimer’s disease and 38% among those aged 90 years or more but without Alzheimer’s disease. Psychotropic drugs include antipsychotics, antidepressants and benzodiazepines and related drugs which are used for anxiety and insomnia in short-term treatment. On the contrary, persons aged 90 years or more with Alzheimer’s disease used less frequently antidementia drugs (63%) when compared with younger persons with the same disease (72%).

Psychotropic drugs are related to significant risk of adverse effects among older users and for this reason, very frequent use of these drugs among the oldest persons is concerning. The need and safety of drug use should be regularly assessed.

Drug use was studied within MEDALZ study cohort within six months after the diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease in Finland. Data for 67,215 persons with Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed during 2005-2011 and comparison persons with same age, gender and region of residence without the disease were derived from Finnish nationwide registers.

For further information, please contact:

Heidi Taipale, Postdoctoral Researcher, School of Pharmacy, University of Eastern Finland, heidi.taipale(at)

Sirpa Hartikainen, Professor, School of Pharmacy, University of Eastern Finland, sirpa.hartikainen(at)

Research article:

Drug use in persons with and without Alzheimer’s disease aged 90 years or more.

Heidi Taipale, Marjaana Koponen, Antti Tanskanen, Anna-Maija Tolppanen, Jari Tiihonen, Sirpa Hartikainen. Age and Ageing, published online September 9, 2016.


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The University of Eastern Finland, UEF, is one of the largest universities in Finland. The activities of the UEF underscore multidisciplinarity, and the university is especially strong in research related to forests and the environment, health and well-being, and new technologies and materials. The UEF offers teaching in more than 100 major subjects. In addition to the high standard of teaching, the university offers its students a modern study environment, which is under constant development. The university comprises four faculties: the Philosophical Faculty, the Faculty of Science and Forestry, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies. The university’s campuses are located in the heart of beautiful eastern Finland in Joensuu, Kuopio and Savonlinna. The UEF is home to approximately 15 000 students and nearly 2 800 members of staff.


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