Quantifying the role of adverse events in the mortality difference between first and second-generation antipsychotics in older adults: systematic review and meta-synthesis

PLoS One. 2014 Aug 20;9(8):e105376. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105376. eCollection 2014.


Background: Observational studies have reported higher mortality among older adults treated with first-generation antipsychotics (FGAs) versus second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs). A few studies examined risk for medical events, including stroke, ventricular arrhythmia, venous thromboembolism, myocardial infarction, pneumonia, and hip fracture.

Objectives: 1) Review robust epidemiologic evidence comparing mortality and medical event risk between FGAs and SGAs in older adults; 2) Quantify how much these medical events explain the observed mortality difference between FGAs and SGAs.

Data sources: Pubmed and Science Citation Index.

Study eligibility criteria, participants, and interventions: Studies of antipsychotic users that: 1) evaluated mortality or medical events specified above; 2) restricted to populations with a mean age of 65 years or older 3) compared FGAs to SGAs, or both to a non-user group; (4) employed a "new user" design; (5) adjusted for confounders assessed prior to antipsychotic initiation; (6) and did not require survival after antipsychotic initiation. A separate search was performed for mortality estimates associated with the specified medical events.

Study appraisal and synthesis methods: For each medical event, we used a non-parametric model to estimate lower and upper bounds for the proportion of the mortality difference-comparing FGAs to SGAs-mediated by their difference in risk for the medical event.

Results: We provide a brief, updated summary of the included studies and the biological plausibility of these mechanisms. Of the 1122 unique citations retrieved, we reviewed 20 observational cohort studies that reported 28 associations. We identified hip fracture, stroke, myocardial infarction, and ventricular arrhythmias as potential intermediaries on the causal pathway from antipsychotic type to death. However, these events did not appear to explain the entire mortality difference.

Conclusions: The current literature suggests that hip fracture, stroke, myocardial infarction, and ventricular arrhythmias partially explain the mortality difference between SGAs and FGAs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Dementia / drug therapy*
  • Dementia / mortality
  • Hip Fractures / etiology
  • Hip Fractures / mortality
  • Humans
  • Pneumonia / etiology
  • Pneumonia / mortality


  • Antipsychotic Agents