The overuse of antipsychotic drugs to treat dementia is the subject of a recent federal study. In the nursing home setting, these drugs are sometimes prescribed to calm disruptive behaviors that dementia causes some residents to display. This study correlates use of antipsychotic medication with an increased risk of death. Also a consideration is the hundreds of millions of dollars Medicare spends to pay for these prescriptions. The question is what can be done to help dementia patients when there are no other types of psychiatric medications that reduce their agitation. In New York, dramatic reductions in the use of antipsychotic medications were achieved through the use of alternate methods of management of symptoms, including music therapy, exercise, and social activities.
For more information, see “Psychiatric Drug Overuse Is Cited by Federal Study,” New York Times, 3/1/2015, and editorial comments 3/18/2015.
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