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Researchers slam 50pc uplift in antipsychotic prescribing during COVID

Antipsychotic prescribing for people with dementia increased by more than 50 per cent on average in care homes during the pandemic, new research has found.

Researchers at the University of Exeter and King’s College London compared antipsychotic prescribing for people in dementia in UK care homes, comparing current prescribing and pre-pandemic prescription rates.

They found that in people with dementia prescriptions for these drugs rose from 18 per cent to 28 per cent since 2018, with prescription rates of over 50 per cent in a third of care homes. Prescribing rates from the COVID-19 iWHELD study were compared with pre pandemic data from a similar care home cohort study. Each study evaluated 700 residents.

Professor Clive Ballard, at the University of Exeter, said: “The majority of care homes must be applauded for maintaining relatively low antipsychotic prescribing levels amid incredibly difficult circumstances.” However, he said that homes with very significant rises in antipsychotic prescribing should be urgently supported to avoid people with dementia being exposed to significant harms.”

Dr Richard Oakley, associate director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society – which cofounded the iWHELD study, said: “This study shows the shocking and dangerous scale of the use of antipsychotic drugs to treat people with dementia in care homes. 

 Alzheimer’s Society has been campaigning for a move away from the model of ‘medicate first’. Drug-free, tailored care can help avoid the loss of lives associated with the harmful side effects of antipsychotic medications, he said.

The study ‘Antipsychotic prescriptions and neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) in NH residents with dementia: a comparison of Pre and during Covid pandemic’, was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

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