Massive increase in antipsychotic prescribing in dementia care

Prescriptions for harmful antipsychotics leapt by 50% in dementia care during the pandemic, research led by Exeter University and King’s College London has found.

The research, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in San Diego, showed that 28% of people with dementia in care homes had been prescribed antipsychotic medication compared with 18% in 2018.  Prescription rates were over 50% in a third of care homes.

Exeter University’s Professor Clive Ballard said: “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.

“However, there were very significant rises in antipsychotic prescribing in one third of care homes and we urgently need to find ways to prioritise support to prevent people with dementia being exposed to significant harms.”

The research team pointed out that antipsychotics had only limited, short-term benefits for people with dementia but increased the risk of serious side effects such as stroke, faster decline and death.