Alzheimer's charities call on government to release antipsychotics review

Leading dementia charities, including the Alzheimer's Research Trust and the Alzheimer's Society, are demanding that the government publishes its review into the use of antipsychotic drugs in dementia patients.

The long-delayed review was expected to be released in spring this year, but has still to materialise.

Currently, it is estimated that as many as 100,000 people with dementia are routinely prescribed antipsychotics in UK care homes.

This could mean 23,500 people dying prematurely, according to a 2008 report by Paul Burstow MP. 

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said: ‘While the DoH prevaricates, thousands of people are being put at risk through the misuse of antipsychotics. After so many delays, the government must take swift and decisive action.

‘By breaking its promise to take prompt action on the misuse of antipsychotic drugs the government is failing the most vulnerable people in our society.'

Dr Dave Anderson, chairman of the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry, added: ‘The Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry shares the Alzheimer's Society concern about excessive use of antipsychotic drugs. This is symptomatic of a health and care system ill designed for people with dementia, yet, 30-40% of older people admitted to a general hospital will suffer from dementia.'

A DoH spokesman said: 'The Government commissioned an independent review of prescribing antipsychotic drugs to people with dementia and this is now being peer reviewed in the usual way. We expect to publish the review, together with the Department's response, shortly.
'This is an important issue which directly affects the experience of people with dementia in all care settings, and we want to make sure that we get it right. NICE guidance is very clear - people with dementia who develop challenging behaviours should be assessed as soon as possible to establish the factors that are likely to generate, aggravate or improve such behaviour and a care plan should be put in place. People with dementia should only be offered antipsychotics if they are severely distressed or there is an immediate risk of harm to the person or others.'

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