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Number of people with dementia prescribed antipsychotics drugs falls by a half

17-Jul-12
Article By: Sue Learner, News Editor

The number of people with dementia being prescribed antipsychotics drugs has fallen by over a half, in the last three years.

An audit carried out by the NHS Information Centre found antipsychotic prescriptions for people with dementia have fallen by 52 per cent in three years.

The 52 per cent reduction was between 2008 and 2011.

The audit also found there were strong regional variations, with rates of prescribing of antipsychotic drugs up to six times higher in some areas than others.

The areas, where antipsychotic drugs were prescribed the most, was the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: "This momentous achievement is not just about statistics, it is about the lives of tens of thousands of people with dementia. Credit is due to the many doctors, nurses and care workers without whom this would not have been possible. It also reflects the hard work of campaigning organisations such as Alzheimer’s Society to raise awareness and change opinions."

He added: "However, there are still tens of thousands more people – both diagnosed and undiagnosed – having their lives put at risk by these drugs and some parts of the country are failing to reach the mark.

"Now is the time to move from fourth gear to fifth to ensure everyone’s prescriptions are reviewed and that only those people who benefit are kept on antipsychotics. They must only be a last resort."

Nearly two thirds of people diagnosed with dementia included in the audit were women, showing a higher prevalence of diagnosed dementia, in women than in men.

The report also found the number of people newly diagnosed each year with dementia in the participating GP practices has increased by 68 per cent in the last six years (from 2006 to 2011).

In 2008, the Department of Health commissioned an independent review of the prescribing of antipsychotic drugs for people with dementia.

The review was triggered by concerns about the over-prescription of antipsychotic drugs for people with dementia that were highlighted in a number of critical reports by the Alzheimer's Society and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia.

Alzheimer’s Society recently launched the Focussed Intervention Training and Support (FITS) programme, supported by £100,000 from the Department of Health and £100,000 from HC-One.

An initial trial in 2007 found the programme reduced the use of antipsychotics in care homes by 50 per cent.

The audit collected data from more than 3,800 GP practices in England, with information about nearly 197,000 people with dementia.

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