More than half of prescriptions for anti-psychotic drugs in Britain are for conditions other than serious mental illnesses, say researchers.
And the elderly are twice as likely to be prescribed the drugs as people in their 40s, even though they are linked to a higher risk of premature death in older people.
The drugs, often dubbed the ‘chemical cosh’ because they are wrongly used to sedate dementia patients, are licensed for serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Elderly people twice as likely as middle-aged to be given these drugs despite greater risk of side effects
Less than half of UK prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs are being issued to treat the serious mental illnesses for which they are mainly licensed, reveals research published in the online journal BMJ Open.
Instead, they may often be prescribed ‘off label' to older people with other conditions, such as anxiety and dementia, despite the greater risk of potentially serious side effects in this age group, the findings indicate.
Antipsychotic drugs are licensed for serious mental illness accompanied by psychotic episodes, such as schizophrenia, delusional disorders, and bipolar disorder. They are sometimes recommended for complex cases of depression or for short term use in mental health crises.
The researchers focused on the three most commonly prescribed first (haloperidol, chlorpromazine, trifluoperazine) and second (olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone) generation antipsychotics, looking at the average daily dose, as well …
Our findings suggest that further effort is required to decrease primary care antipsychotic prescriptions in dementia, and that assessing time trends in antipsychotic prescribing in this group is an important area for future research.
But a study of GPs’ prescriptions between 2007 and 2011, using an electronic database of anonymous patient records, found that less than half were prescribed the drugs for these conditions.
Often they were handed out for anxiety, sleep problems and personality disorders, as well as dementia, even though doctors have been told to prescribe them only as a last resort.This ‘off label’ or unlicensed prescribing resulted in older people with conditions such as dementia and anxiety getting them, says the study published online by the journal BMJ Open.