Warning: Olanzapine Risky in Older Adults?

Olanzapine (Zyprexa canadian, Eli Lilly), an antipsychotic agent that is often used to calm elderly people with dementia, may increase the risk of strokes and death in those patients, according to a letter sent by Eli Lilly & Co. to physicians on January 15, 2004.

The letter mentioned a “significantly higher” incidence of stroke among these patients and a higher rate of deaths of all types (3.5%) compared with a rate of 1.5% in patients receiving placebo.

Although this drug is not approved for use in elderly patients with dementia (it is indicated for people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), over time, olanzapine and drugs like it have become widely used in nursing homes and hospitals to treat verbal outbursts and behavior problems in older patients.

A Lilly spokesperson cautioned that the elderly patients in whom the increased risks were seen often had other serious medical problems, and it was not clear whether medication olanzapine actually played a role in the higher death rates.