Posted on 22/02/2013

Concern Over Use of Antipsychotic Drugs in Care Homes

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Concern Over Use of Antipsychotic Drugs in Care Homes

Research suggests possible overuse of antipsychotics in care homes

According to reports from The Guardian and the BBC, new research that looks at prescription data has ‘raised concerns’ that strong drugs including antipsychotics are being overused in care homes. The reports are based on a study carried out in Northern Island which looked at the way psychotropic drugs were prescribed for elderly citizens in both the community and in care homes. The researchers wanted to find out if there was an increase in prescriptions when people moved into care.

Psychotropic drugs affect the brain and can include antipsychotic drugs (which are used to treat psychosis), sedatives and anxiolytics (which are prescribed for anxiety or agitation).
While concerns have already been raised addressing the overuse of psychotropic drugs in those suffering from dementia in care homes, antipsychotics in particular can increase the chances of fatal conditions such as stroke if used for extended periods of time.

Do care homes simply use more prescription drugs?

The study discovered that over 20% of those in care homes were given antipsychotic drugs compared with just over 1% of those still living in the community. It also highlighted that, rather worryingly, the prescription of the drugs increased from 8% before entering a care home to 18.6% afterwards.

Although it is possible that those going into care homes become more ill than those who stay within their communities, researchers are still arguing that the increase in the prescription of the drugs “cannot be wholly explained”, raising concerns over the overuse of psychotropic medication in care environments.

While the report does not detail the reasons for prescribing the medicines and whether they were appropriate, it does seem that routine medication reviews are necessary in the elderly, especially during transitions of care.

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