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A study shows that dementia patients are taking more antipsychotic drugs

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According to new research, the average number of potentially harmful antipsychotic medications prescribed to dementia patients in nursing homes increased by more than 50% during the pandemic.

Researchers at King’s College London and the University of Exeter compared prescription rates today with those from before the coronavirus.

They claimed that since 2018, the percentage of dementia patients receiving these prescriptions had increased from 18 to 28 percent, with prescription rates exceeding 50 percent in one-third of nursing homes.

The research data compared more than 700 residents of nursing homes who participated in two studies conducted before and after the pandemic.

“Covid-19 put tremendous pressure on care homes, and the majority of them must be applauded for maintaining relatively low antipsychotic prescribing levels amid incredibly difficult circumstances,” said Professor Clive Ballard, who participated in a national campaign in 2009 to reduce antipsychotic prescriptions by half.

Dementia patients are taking more antipsychotic drugs
Dementia patients are taking more antipsychotic drugs

However, one-third of care homes saw very significant increases in the prescription of antipsychotics, and we urgently need to figure out how to give support for people with dementia the top priority.

Some of the more distressing behavioral and psychological signs and symptoms of dementia, like agitation and psychotic episodes, are treated with antipsychotic medications.

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They only offer a very small number of transient benefits in the treatment of psychiatric symptoms in dementia patients, but they also vastly increase the risk of severe side effects, such as stroke, accelerated decline, and death.

Care homes, where about 70% of residents have dementia, faced previously unheard-of challenges as a result of COVID-19.

Access to PPE, staffing levels, isolation, and caring for residents during lockdowns were some of the difficulties care facilities faced.

“This study shows the shocking and dangerous scale of antipsychotic drug use to treat people with dementia in care homes,” continued Dr. Richard Oakley from the Alzheimer’s Society.

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“The Alzheimer’s Society has fought for a shift away from the’medicate first’ paradigm and has funded research into non-antipsychotic alternatives that puts dementia patients at the center of their own care.

This individualized, drug-free care may help prevent the loss of life brought on by the negative side effects of antipsychotic medications.

A spokesman for the NHS stated: “Since 2010, the NHS has significantly decreased the number of prescriptions for antipsychotic medications by providing GPs, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals with guidance on how to deliver care that meets the unique needs of each patient.

“Expert pharmacy teams have also been deployed across the country to advise patients and, where appropriate, maximize other treatment options.”

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