The Telegraph – July 22, 2011
By Martni Beckford, Health Correspondent
Five dementia sufferers die each day after being wrongly prescribed “chemical cosh” drugs, the Department of Health has warned.
Many more hospital patients and care home residents suffer strokes triggered by the antipsychotic medications they are given to keep them sedated.
New GP-led bodies that will purchase services under the reformed NHS are being told to review the prescriptions of all 180,000 dementia sufferers currently prescribed the drugs, and to do all they can to give them alternative treatment.
A Dementia Commissioning Pack published on Thursday by the Department of Health states: “Thousands of people across England who are living with dementia are taking antipsychotic medication that they do not need and that could possibly harm them.
“Evidence tells us that although there are clinical situations where a time-limited prescription of antipsychotic drugs may be appropriate, antipsychotic drugs are often overprescribed and continued when alternative therapies are more beneficial.
“There is an unambiguous case for a substantial reduction in their use alongside the wider adoption of alternative interventions which we know can help to maximise the quality of life for people with dementia and their carers.”
More than 600,000 people in England already have degenerative brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s but the figure is expected to rise to above 1million within a few decades as the population ages.
A Government-commissioned report published in 2009 estimated that 180,000 dementia sufferers are being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs but in as many as 150,000 cases they are unnecessarily being taken, often to keep patients quiet in hospital or nursing homes.
Because the “chemical cosh” drugs are feared to worsen other medical conditions and speed up mental decline, it is estimated that they lead to 1,800 needless deaths – five a day – every year. In addition, they are thought to cause 1,620 strokes, half of which are severe.
The new commissioning pack tells doctors to review all the prescriptions for anti-psychotics by next April; to ensure that they tell hospitals and care homes they work with to look for “therapeutic alternatives”; to publish data on their progress; and to use schemes that pay more to hospitals and other providers if they meet targets.
Sir Ian Carruthers, dementia champion for the NHS, said: “Dementia is one of the greatest challenges society faces today, and it is essential that we get commissioning right so that people can live well in their community, and access more support when they need it.”
For more information, read The Psychiatric Abuse of Our Elderly – https://www.cchrint.org/protectelderly/