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Thioridazine and sudden unexplained death in psychiatric in-patients

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Joseph Reilly, Dr Salma Ayis, Emeritus Professor Nicol Ferrier, Professor Simon ThomasORCiD


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Background: Sudden death has been linked to antipsychotic therapy, but the relative risk associated with specific drugs is unknown. Aims: To assess the risk of sudden unexplained death associated with antipsychotic drug therapy and its relation to drug dose and individual agents. Method: A case-control study of psychiatric in-patients dying suddenly in five hospitals in the north-east of England and surviving controls matched for age, gender and mental disorder. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify significant risk factors, and odds ratios were calculated. Results: Sixty-nine case-control clusters were identified. Probable sudden unexplained death was significantly associated with hypertension, ischaemic heart disease and current treatment with thioridazine (adjusted odds ratio=5.3, 95% Cl1.7-16.2, P=0.004).There was no significant association with other individual antipsychotic drugs. Conclusion: Thioridazine alone was associated with sudden unexplained death, the likely mechanism being drug-induced arrythmia.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Reilly JG, Ayis SA, Ferrier IN, Jones SJ, Thomas SHL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Psychiatry

Year: 2002

Volume: 180

Pages: 515-522

Print publication date: 01/01/2002

ISSN (print): 0007-1250

ISSN (electronic): 1472-1465

Publisher: Royal College of Psychiatrists


DOI: 10.1192/bjp.180.6.515

PubMed id: 12042230


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