The actual usage of anti-psychotic drugs in dementia patients may be up to 46 percent more than any original numbers suggests.
Anti-psychotic drugs are often prescribed for dementia patients to help with symptoms such as aggression, hallucinations, and agitation. An earlier study suggested that these medications can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
A separate study elaborated on this topic and found that anti-psychotic drugs can also increase risk for mortality, bringing to light awareness of the danger of over-prescribing these medications.
Researchers from Aston University and the University of East Anglia analyzed the results of the government's National Dementia and Anti-Psychotic Prescribing Audit and research of primary care trusts (PCTs).
The investigators found that 15.3 percent of people with dementia took an anti-psychotic, in contrast to the national audit, which found 10.5 percent.
Although, only 48.9 percent of general care practices across the country took part in the national audit, 98.3 percent of practices in Medway participated in the detailed local study.
The Medway project, conducted from January to December 2011, and examined by the research team from both universities, discovered that:
- People living with dementia who were in care homes were almost 3.5 times more likely to receive a low-dose anti-psychotic than those living at home. (25.5 percent versus 7.3 percent)
- For patients with dementia whose medication was started by their general practitioner, it was feasible to reduce or withdraw low-dose anti-psychotics for over 60 percent.
- Clinical trials are urgently needed to confirm the effectiveness of pharmacist medication reviews.
Anne Child, primary author, who is now Head of Pharmaceutical Care at Avante Care and Support said:
"We have demonstrated that a multi-disciplinary approach to dementia care, involving a pharmacy-led medication review, GPs, and care homes, can produce a positive outcome for patients, in one region of the country. More work is now needed."
While Dr Chris Fox, co-author, from UEA's Norwich Medical School said:
"Another issue with the national audit is it fails to report the usage of the drug lorazepam, which is sometimes used instead of anti-psychotics. It is potentially equally dangerous. Until we capture the true level of usage of all these drugs we cannot truly understand the issue."
This research analysis was a noteworthy step, however it only presents half the picture.
Written by Kelly Fitzgerald