More than 100,000 patients are given anti-psychotic drugs that ‘may kill’

Daily Mail
28.04.2008
BY JENNY HOPE

Thousands of dementia patients are being given dangerous anti-psychotic drugs…, an official report has found.

The medication, which could increase the risk of premature death, is prescribed to control agitation, delusions, sleep disturbance and aggression. It is not licensed to treat Alzheimer’s.

But an official investigation has found that care-home staff are using the drugs as a first resort to control the behaviour of difficult patients with dementia.

A report from the all-party parliamentary group on dementia warns that almost three-quarters of those taking the drugs, up to 105,000, are given them inappropriately - at a cost of more than £60million a year.

There is also evidence that side effects can double the risk of users dying prematurely.

The report, called A Last Resort, says there is no regulation of their use and urges the Government to stop their over-prescription.

Jeremy Wright, chairman of the all-party group, said: “A Last Resort 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. The Government must end this needless abuse.

“Best practice guidelines are not enough - safeguards must be put in place to ensure anti-psychotics are always a last resort.”

Typical drugs used for dementia symptoms are Largactil, Serenace, Stelazine and Risperdal, which were originally designed to treat schizophrenia patients.

Neil Hunt, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “It is absolutely disgraceful that the widespread abuse of people with dementia has been allowed to continue despite safety warnings on anti-psychotics.”

Safe alternatives to anti-psychotics are available, Mr Hunt said.

Lily Frost, 86, was prescribed anti-psychotic drugs in August. She died in October.

The former dinner lady was given powerful tranquillisers to calm her agitation at night.

But soon she was sleeping all day and could not hold a pen unaided.

Before dying, the widow had a stroke, pneumonia and a burst ulcer.

Her daughter Brenda Vickers, 56, of Chester, said: “The change was rapid. She was laughing and happy before she went to hospital and came out like a zombie…”

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