Published: February 2009

Conventional antipsychotics and mortality risk - carefully assess risks and benefits before use in elderly dementia patients

Prescriber Update 30(1): 1
February 2009

The risk of death is significantly increased in elderly patients with dementia who are prescribed conventional antipsychotics, compared with non-users. The risk appears to be similar to, or possibly greater than, the risk previously identified for atypical antipsychotics. As with the atypical antipsychotics, the risk of death is highest in the months immediately after commencement of treatment.

Prescribers are advised that the use of antipsychotics in elderly dementia patients should only be considered after a careful assessment of the risks and benefits of treatment. Recently published guidance on the rational and safe use of antipsychotics in dementia patients by BPACNZ is available at

The data sheets for all conventional antipsychotics available in New Zealand are in the process of being updated to include information about this risk, in line with warnings included in the data sheets for atypical antipsychotics.