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Use of Atypical Antipsychotic Drugs Increases Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death in Adults

Electronic Newsletter, Issue 269

About 11 million Americans under age 65 purchased individual health insurance policies at some point in 2006, but only 7 million were covered by these policies for the full year.

About 11 million Americans under age 65 purchased individual health insurance policies at some point in 2006, but only 7 million were covered by these policies for the full year. The 4 million people who had individual health insurance policies for part of the year were covered for about six months on average. [Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, MEPS Statistical Brief #227: Length of Coverage in the Individual Health Insurance Market for the Non-Elderly U.S. Population, 2006.]

Today's Headlines

  1. Use of atypical antipsychotic drugs increases risk of sudden cardiac death in adults
  2. AHRQ announces new Web site on emerging issues in medical therapeutics
  3. Errors involving chemotherapy medications common in outpatient cancer treatment
  4. New AHRQ tool estimates transportation needs in emergency situations
  5. AHRQ's Health Care Innovations Exchange to host Web conference on engaging stakeholders
  6. AHRQ issues two Funding Opportunity Announcements
  7. Highlights from our most recent monthly newsletter
  8. Do you know how AHRQ's research is being used?
  9. Calling all AHRQ researchers! "Help us to help you."
  10. AHRQ in the professional literature

1.  Use of Atypical Antipsychotic Drugs Increases Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death in Adults

Patients ages 30 to 74 who took atypical antipsychotics such as risperidone (sold as Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), olanzapine (Zyprexa) and clozapine (Clozaril) had a significantly higher risk of sudden death from cardiac arrhythmias and other cardiac causes than patients who did not take these medications. The risk of death increased with higher doses of the drugs taken. The AHRQ-funded study, titled "Atypical Antipsychotic Drugs and the Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death," was published in the January 15 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Lead researcher Wayne A. Ray, Ph.D., and his colleagues at AHRQ's Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville found that current users of atypical antipsychotic drugs had a rate of sudden cardiac death twice that of people who didn't use the drugs and similar to the death rate for patients taking typical antipsychotics, including haloperidol (Haldol) and thioridazine (Mellaril). Researchers conclude that atypical antipsychotics are not a safer alternative to typical antipsychotics in preventing death from sudden cardiac causes. Select to read our press release and select to access the abstract in PubMed®. 

2.  AHRQ Announces New Web Site on Emerging Issues in Medical Therapeutics

A new educational Web site offers expert perspectives, advice and guidance on drugs, biological products, and medical devices from AHRQ's Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics (CERTs). The Clinician-Consumer Health Advisory Information Network (CHAIN) links clinicians and consumers with information on therapeutics to assist in clinical practice and health care decisionmaking in areas where evidence is undergoing significant and rapid changes. The site also provides access to educational and informational resources developed from research conducted by CERTs and intended for use in improving health care quality, safety, and effectiveness. Clinical topics included on the CHAIN Web site address the management of blood clot prevention with drug-eluting stents and expert opinions about topics where evidence is uncertain, such as restarting antiplatelet therapy if it has been interrupted. The site's educational section includes materials to assist consumers with clinician-patient conversations and decisionmaking as well as an online medication record. Resources for clinicians include a slide library that can be adapted to educate clinical audiences and used for continuing medical education credit. Select to read our press release. 

3.  Errors Involving Chemotherapy Medications Common in Outpatient Cancer Treatment

Seven percent of adults and 19 percent of children taking chemotherapy drugs in outpatient clinics or at home were given the wrong dose or experienced other mistakes involving their medications, according to a new study supported in part by AHRQ's Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics (CERTs) program. The study, "Medication Errors among Adults and Children with Cancer in the Outpatient Setting," is in the January 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®. 

4.  New AHRQ Tool Estimates Transportation Needs in Emergency Situations

AHRQ released a model to help Federal, State, and local emergency planners estimate the number of vehicles and drivers, road capacity, and other resources they will need to evacuate patients and others from health care facilities in disaster areas. Emergency planners can enter into the model any number of evacuating and receiving facilities and specific conditions that could affect transportation plans. The model will estimate the resources and hours needed to move patients from evacuating facilities to receiving facilities, based on assumptions that the planner specifies. The Web-based Mass Evacuation Transportation Planning Model was developed by AHRQ and the Department of Defense with funding from the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency and the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. The model helps communities move one step closer to an integrated emergency response system that can track, move, and regulate patients and evacuees during a mass casualty or evacuation. 

5.  AHRQ's Health Care Innovations Exchange to Host Web Conference on Engaging Stakeholders

AHRQ's Health Care Innovations Exchange is hosting a free Web Conference entitled "Engaging Stakeholders: How to Obtain and Retain Buy-in for Your Innovations" on January 27 from 2:00 -3:30 p.m. EST. The four panelists will discuss the challenges they faced and lessons learned in gaining support and commitment from organizational leaders, colleagues, patients, and others in the community. 

6.  AHRQ Issues Two Funding Opportunity Announcements

AHRQ issued two Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs), both of which update previous program announcements by including new AHRQ portfolio objectives. Applications should focus on identified priority areas in one of the six AHRQ portfolios: value, prevention/care management, health information technology, comparative effectiveness, patient safety, and innovations and emerging issues. These FOAs also reinstitute a budget of up to $500,000 in total annual project costs. The two FOAs are:

7.  Highlights from Our Most Recent Monthly Newsletter

The January issue of Research Activities is available online. Key articles include:

  • Patients reveal adverse events in the hospital that are not documented in the medical records.
    Hospitalized patients report many adverse events—some serious and preventable—that are not documented in their medical records. Select to read this article.

Other articles include:

  • Emergency medicine consensus conference examines the role of health care simulation in developing clinical expertise.
  • Researchers identify possible genetic component of penicillin allergy.
  • Daily hemodialysis is cost-effective for intensive care patients with acute kidney injury.

Select to read these articles and others. 

8.  Do You Know How AHRQ's Research Is Being Used?

We are always looking for ways in which AHRQ-funded research, products, and tools have changed people's lives, influenced clinical practice, improved policies, and affected patient outcomes. These impact case studies describe AHRQ research findings in action and are used in testimony, budget documents, and speeches. If your AHRQ-funded research has had an impact on health care policy, clinical practice, or patient outcomes, we would like to know. Contact AHRQ's Impact Case Studies Program at or (301) 427-1243 with your impact stories. 

9.  Calling All AHRQ Researchers! "Help Us to Help You."

As you may know, AHRQ can help you promote the findings of your AHRQ-funded research, but we can't do it without you. AHRQ has been successful in working with our grantees and contractors to promote findings to the media and to transfer knowledge based on the research to appropriate audiences in the health care community. However, we know that we can do better. We need you to notify us when you have an article accepted for publication. Please send a copy of the manuscript, anticipated publication date, and contact information for the journal and your institution's public relations office to your AHRQ project officer and to AHRQ Public Affairs at Your manuscript will be reviewed to determine what level of marketing we will pursue. Please be assured that AHRQ always honors the journal embargo. Thank you for your cooperation. 

10.  AHRQ in the Professional Literature

We are providing the following hyperlinks to journal abstracts through PubMed® for your convenience. Unfortunately, some of you may not be able to access the abstracts because of firewalls or specific settings on your individual computer systems. If you are having problems, you should ask your technical support staff for possible remedies.

Calvocoressi L, Sun A, Kasi SV, et al. Mammography screening of women in their 40s: impact of changes in screening guidelines. Cancer 2008 Feb 1; 112(3):473-80. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Gozalo PL, Miller SC, Intrator O, et al. Hospice effect on government expenditures among nursing home residents. Health Serv Res 2008 Feb; 43(1 PT1):134-53. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Taylor BB, Marcantonio ER, Pagovich O, et al. Do medical inpatients who report poor service quality experience more adverse events and medical errors? Med Care 2008 Feb; 46(2):224-8. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Kim JY, Lautenbach E, Chu J, et al. Fluoroquinolone resistance in pediatric bloodstream infections because of Escherichia coli and Klebsiella species. Am J Infec Control 2008 Feb; 36(1):70-3. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Perry M, Williams RL, Wallerstein N, et al. Social capital and health care experiences among low-income individuals. Am J Public Health 2008 Feb; 98(2):330-6. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Curtis LH, Whellan DJ, Hammill BG. Incidence and prevalence of heart failure in elderly person, 1994-2003. Arch Intern Med 2008 Feb 25; 168(40):418-24. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Sanne S, Muntner P, Kawasaki L, et al. Hypertension knowledge among patients from an urban clinic. Ethn Dis 2008 Winter; 18(1):42-7. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Contact Information

Please address comments and questions regarding the AHRQ Electronic Newsletter to Nancy Comfort at or (301) 427-1866.

If you have questions about AHRQ's activities, please try to find the answers by checking our Home Page, where we have established links to various topical areas. Also check the News & Information section and Frequently Asked Questions. You may also Browse the Web Site. These features are designed to assist you in obtaining the information you are seeking.

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Page last reviewed January 2009
Internet Citation: Use of Atypical Antipsychotic Drugs Increases Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death in Adults: Electronic Newsletter, Issue 269. January 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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