More and more often, it seems, drugs that were widely thought to be effective against serious illnesses turn out to show little or no value when tested in large, impartial clinical trials insulated from drug company influence. The latest example is a class of drugs known as atypical antipsychotics that are commonly used to soothe agitation, delusions, and aggression in people with Alzheimer’s disease. A government-sponsored study recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the drugs are no more effective than placebos for most patients and carry troubling side effects, like sedation and confusion. This was the third major study — all coming within one year — to cast doubt on the atypical antipsychotics, which were supposedly a significant advance over the first generation of anti-psychotics.

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