The Daily Telegraph
By Kate Devlin – Medical Correspondent
Experts who looked at 22 nursing homes found 51 per cent of residents were being inappropriately given drugs, including anti-psychotics, antidepressants and painkillers.
More than 420,000 people live in care and nursing homes in Britain, of which around 405,000 are elderly.
Previous estimates have suggested that 100,000 residents, suffering from dementia, were being drugged unnecessarily every year.
However, if the results of this study are replicated across the country, it suggests that around 200,000 patients are being given inappropriate medication in homes.
Paul Burstow, the Liberal Democrat MP, said: “This adds to the growing evidence that inappropriate medicating in care homes is much more routine in practice than we would like to believe.
“And when it comes to the prescribing of anti-psychotics, these drugs are actually killing people. The Government must come up with concrete proposals to crack down on this problem.” Mr Burstow has previously called for GPs who overprescribe to patients in homes to face prosecution.
The use of anti-psychotics has become increasingly controversial in recent years after they were linked to strokes. A report released last year suggested that the drugs could be responsible for more than 23,000 deaths in care homes every year.
Lizzie McLennan, from Help the Aged, said that “too many” elderly people were being drugged in care homes.
She called for GPs to be forced to make regular visits to care homes for which they prescribe and for routine reviews of residents’ medication.
The nursing homes study shows that when pharmacists reviewed the medication residents had been prescribed 171 out of 334 were receiving drugs that they did not need.
The findings, by researchers at Queen’s University in Belfast and Brown University in Rhode Island, were presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Manchester.
Another study also presented at the conference shows that staff at nursing homes believed that the culture in a home could lead to over prescribing and patients receiving powerful drugs they did not need “to make life easier”.
The Government has ordered a review into inappropriate prescribing in care homes, which is due to report later in the autumn.
Critics say that problems can arise because some GPs visit care homes only rarely and rely on issuing repeat prescriptions from one year to the next, and because of the commercial relationship that can exist between GPs and homes.
Anti-psychotic drugs are not licensed to treat dementia but are commonly prescribed to control agitation, sleep disturbance and aggression in sufferers in care homes, previous studies have shown.