April 15 (HealthDay News) -- Newer antipsychotic drugs promote weight gain and lower levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol in Alzheimer's patients, according to a new study of more than 400 elderly patients.
The drugs, olanzapine and quetiapine, were both associated with significant weight gain. In addition, patients who took olanzapine experienced increases in waist circumference and declines in HDL cholesterol.
The longer patients took the drugs, the more likely they were to experience significant weight gain. However, the weight gain occurred in women but not in men. Another drug, risperidone, wasn't associated with harmful metabolic changes, according to findings from the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness -- Alzheimer's Disease (CATIE-AD) study, funded by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
The study was to be published online April 15 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
"These findings are especially troubling, because antipsychotics are associated with a higher risk of death and cerebrovascular adverse events in patients with dementia. They're often used to minimize disruptive symptoms (such as psychosis or agitation), but patients should be monitored more closely," principal investigator Dr. Lon S. Schneider said in an American Psychiatric Association news release.
These kinds of metabolic side effects have been noted in schizophrenia patients who take second-generation antipsychotic drugs, experts said.
SOURCE: American Psychiatric Association, news release, April 15, 2009