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SHOCKING RISE IN DEMENTIA PATIENTS ON 'ZOMBIE' DRUGS
Daily Express UK
Tens of thousands of elderly dementia sufferers are being subdued by antipsychotic drugs
DANGEROUS “chemical cosh” drugs used to sedate dementia patients are being far more widely prescribed than previously thought, shocking research has revealed.
Tens of thousands of elderly sufferers are being subdued by potentially lethal antipsychotic drugs, despite calls for them not to be given to vulnerable patients.
A damning study has laid bare Britain’s dementia scandal, revealing that the dishing out of the dangerous pills may be almost 50 per cent greater than official estimates.
At least 1,800 dementia sufferers die each year from being forced to take the drugs.
They are used to sedate patients if they grow agitated, a common problem with dementia sufferers, simply to make life easier for their carers.
They are not licensed to treat dementia but are prescribed to control the disease’s associated problems such as delusions, sleep disturbance and aggressive behaviour.
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “These dangerous drugs treble the risk of stroke, double the risk of death and rob people with dementia of their dignity. For those with the condition, antipsychotics are akin to a chemical cosh, but sadly this research suggests their prescription may be massively under reported.
“Every GP practice in the country has a responsibility to help stamp out the inappropriate use of antipsychotics.
"Improving clinical understanding of dementia and ensuring that GPs are trained in the condition is essential to make sure people are supported to live well and that antipsychotics are only used where they would have a clinical benefit.”
The report from researchers at Aston University and the University of East Anglia, working with NHS Kent and Medway primary care trusts, found that 15.3 per cent of those with dementia received antipsychotics, compared to a previous earlier national audit which put the figure at 10.5 per cent.
However, only 48.9 per cent of GP practices participated in the national audit compared with 98.3 per cent of practices in Medway, which took part in the detailed localised study.
One of the researchers, Ian Maidment, a senior lecturer in clinical pharmacy from Aston University, said: “The true scale of antipsychotic usage in dementia may be underestimated.”
Dr Chris Fox, co-author of the report which has been published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Psychiatry, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Another issue with the national audit is it fails to report the usage of the drug lorazepam, which is sometimes used instead of antipsychotics.
"It is potentially equally dangerous. Until we capture the true level of usage of all these drugs we cannot truly understand the issue.”
COMMENTARYJeremy Hughes, Chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society
NINETY per cent of people with dementia will at some point experience behavioural and psychological symptoms such as agitation or aggression.
These symptoms are obviously both distressing for the person with dementia as well as their carer. But that does not mean antipsychotic drugs should be seen as a shortcut to manage difficult situations.
The NHS has made admirable progress in reducing their use but despite this an audit in the summer showed they are still being inappropriately prescribed to tens of thousands of people.
Today's research suggests that, at least in some areas, this number could be a massive under reporting.
The Alzheimer's Society's FITS - Focused Intervention Training and Support - is currently being rolled out in care homes across the country.
The programme, which has been found to reduce prescriptions of antipsychotics by half, involves increasing understanding and awareness of dementia and providing tools, ideas and resources to provide good quality person-centred care. It includes simple things like how to use a person's life story and hobbies to shape their care home experience.
Understanding the person behind dementia is the best way to prevent the kind of symptoms which so often cause people with the condition to become agitated.
By stamping out the inappropriate use of these dangerous drugs, health and care professionals can have a huge impact on the quality of life of people with dementia.