Antipsychotic prescribing in care homes before and after launch of a national dementia strategy: an observational study in English institutions over a 4-year period

Ala Szczepura, Deidre Wild, Amir J Khan, David W Owen, Thomas Palmer, Tariq Muhammad, Michael D Clark, Clive Bowman

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Objectives: To assess associations between the launch of the National Dementia Strategy (NDS) and antipsychotic prescribing in long-term residential care (LTC) in England. Setting and participants: Retrospective analysis of prescribing patterns in 616 LTC institutions (31 619 residents) following launch of the NDS, using information from electronic medicines management system. Primary and secondary outcome measures: Antipsychotic prescribing point prevalence (PP) for all residents in a cross section of LTC settings over a 4-year period following NDS launch. Secondary outcomes included dosages, length of treatment and use of recommended second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) versus first-generation antipsychotics (FGAs). Associations between facility-level PP values and institutional characteristics, resident demographics were explored. Variations across geographical areas examined. Prescription net ingredient costs calculated. Results: No statistically significant difference was observed in overall prescribing rates over the 4-year period (Kolmogorov-Smirnov (KS) test p=0.60), and there was no significant shift towards newer SGAs (KS test p=0.32). Dosages were above the maximum indicated in only 1.3% of cases, but duration of prescribing was excessive in 69.7% of cases. Care homes in the highest prescribing quintile were more likely to be located in a deprived area (rate ratio (Q5/Q1) RR=5.89, 95% CI 4.35 to 7.99), registered for dementia (RR=3.38, 95% CI 3.06 to 3.73) and those in the lowest quintile were more likely to be served by a single general practitioner (GP) practice (RR=0.48; 95% CI 0.37 to 0.63); p<0.001 all. A sixfold variation in PP levels was observed between geographical areas. The average annual expenditure on antipsychotics was £65.6 per person resident (2012 prices). Conclusions: The NDS in England was not associated with reduced PP levels or the types of antipsychotic prescribing in care homes. Further research is needed to explore why. Clear standards specifying recommended agents, dosages and length of treatment, together with routine monitoring and greater accountability for antipsychotic prescribing, may be required.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere009882
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sep 2016

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