02 May 2008
The all-party parliamentary group on dementia has urged government action over the 'dangerous over-prescribing' of anti-psychotic drugs to an estimated 150,000 people with dementia in care homes.
They warned that the drugs, intended for psychotic patients suffering from delusions, paranoia and hallucinations, should not be used routinely.
The MPs' and peers' report, Always a last resort, calls for a series of measures to be included in the National Dementia Strategy, to be published later this year. They include specialist dementia training and more support for all care home staff; families to be involved in all decisions about drugs; and cost-effectiveness reviews and audits by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and the Care Quality Commission.
The report concludes that around 70% of prescriptions are inappropriate. People also often stayed on the medication for far longer than was necessary, it says.
Committee chair Jeremy Wright said: 'The report shines a light on one of the darkest areas of dementia care. Anti-psychotics can double risk of death and triple risk of stroke in people with dementia, heavily sedate them and accelerate cognitive decline.'
Care services minister Ivan Lewis said: 'Guidance to health professionals and care staff is very clear: anti-psychotic drugs should be used only when appropriate, as part of best clinical care practice.'
Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said: 'It is disgraceful that widespread abuse of people with dementia has been allowed to continue. Safe, effective alternatives to anti-psychotics are available. Specialist dementia training vastly increases quality of life and could save the UK £35m a year if it were mandatory.'