09:48pm Sunday 17 December 2017

Review calls for action on dangerous use of antipsychotic drugs for dementia

These are contributing to 1,800 deaths a year.

Antipsychotics have a serious number of side-effects for people with dementia and a profound effect on people’s quality of life, leaving them heavily sedated.

They double the risk of death, triple the risk of stroke and accelerate cognitive decline. Care Services Minister Phil Hope announced a new action plan to tackle the issue.

Alzheimer’s Society comment

‘This, long awaited, landmark review is a welcome recognition of the scale of the issue and Alzheimer’s Society’s view that these drugs should only ever be used as a last resort. The scandalous over prescription of antipsychotic drugs leads to an estimated 1,800 deaths a year, it must end.

The report suggests prescriptions could be reduced by two thirds in three years, this is vital and the new action plan cannot afford to fail. Change will only be achieved with commitment from government, PCTs and health professionals and clear local targets. Almost 150,000 people are being inappropriately prescribed these drugs as a chemical restraint . Today must mark a change in dementia care.’

Neil Hunt
Chief Executive
Alzheimer’s Society
Ends

Facts on antipsychotics

  • Antipsychotic drugs are effective treatments for people with schizophrenia, but have become widely used to treat behavioural symptoms such as aggression, agitation and restlessness in people with dementia. The drugs are used off- license for people with dementia.
  • Antipsychotics have serious number of side-effects for people with dementia and a profound effect on people’s quality of life, leaving them heavily sedated. They double the risk of death, triple the risk of stroke and accelerate cognitive decline. People are at increased risk of parkinsonism, chest infections and fluid retention.
  • Alzheimer’s Society research has shown that training and support for care home staff reduces the need to use antipsychotics in residents with dementia and can be a viable alternative for managing challenging behaviour.
  • Antipsychotic prescriptions to people with dementia cost the UK £60 million per annum. Alzheimer’s Society research shows that person centred care can reduce these costs by half saving £30 million a year.
  • Alzheimer’s Society research found that 77 per cent of nurses report that antipsychotic drugs are often used to treat people with dementia in the hospital environment . A quarter of these nurses said antipsychotics were used inappropriately
  • Over half of people with dementia will experience psychiatric symptoms and/or challenging behaviour at some stage of their condition (Ballard, Waite and Birks, 2006). These symptoms may occur because of pain, physical illness, anxiety, unmet needs or as a response to a confusing environment (All Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia, 2008).

Notes to editors:

  • One in three people over 65 will die with dementia
  • Alzheimer’s Society research shows that 700,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, more than half have Alzheimer’s disease. In less than 20 years nearly a million people will be living with dementia. This will soar to 1.7 million people by 2051.
  • Alzheimer’s Society champions the rights of people living with dementia and the millions of people who care for them. 
  • Alzheimer’s Society works in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Alzheimer’s Society needs to raise money to help people live well with dementia today and for research to find a cure for tomorrow. You can donate now by calling 0845 306 0898 or visiting alzheimers.org.uk
  • Alzheimer’s Society provides a National Dementia Helpline, the number is 0845 300 0336 or visit alzheimers.org.uk

Press Office 0207 423 3595 Email: press@alzheimers.org.uk


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