Alzheimer's patients can quickly lose their verbal skills - but researchers fear it may have more to do with the anti-psychotic drugs they're routinely given than the disease itself.
The drugs may make the condition worse, researchers have discovered, and they don't seem to offer any long-term benefits.
Around 60 per cent of Alzheimer's patients are put on an anti-psychotic, even in the early stages of the disease, in order to control behaviour such as aggression. This effect has earned the drugs the epithet of "the chemical cosh".
The drugs can cause a serious deterioration within six months, and new research is exploring the suspicion that the drugs are also increasing the death rate among Alzheimer's sufferers.
Researchers from King's College London and the Universities of Oxford and Newcastle made the discovery when they observed the progress of 165 Alzheimer's patients in care homes.
The anti-psychotics reviewed by the research study were thioridazine (Melleril), chlorpromazine (Largactil), haloperidol (Serenace), trifluoperazine (Stelazine) and risperidone (Risperdal).
(Source: Public Library of Science Medicine, 2008; 5: e76 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050076).