The number of people with dementia being prescribed antipsychotic drugs has fallen sharply in the past few years, according to a new report published today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).
However, according to the National Dementia & Antipsychotic Prescribing Audit, there was strong regional variation, with rates of prescribing of antipsychotic drugs six times higher in some areas than in others.
It is estimated that around 25% of people with dementia (180,000 people) are currently being prescribed antipsychotic medication designed to treat conditions such as schizophrenia.
For around 36,000 people with dementia, antipsychotic drugs are generally considered the right treatment option but they are sometimes prescribed inappropriately to people with dementia.
This the first ever national primary care audit on the subject and it showed that over the last six years, the percentage of dementia patients being prescribed antipsychotic drugs fell from 17% in 2006 to just 7% per cent in 2011.
Information from almost 197,000 people with dementia from more than 3,800 GP practices in England was submitted to the audit.
Other findings showed that there was a 52% reduction in the number of people with dementia receiving a prescription of antipsychotic medication from 2008 to 2011.
The number of people newly diagnosed each year with dementia in the participating practices increased by 68% in the years from 2006 to 2011.
Diagnosed dementia was more prevalent in women (66%) than in men and the majority of people diagnosed with dementia were aged 65 years and above (95%).
The authors said the use of antipsychotic medication could lead to serious side effects for people with dementia.
A Department of Health report, written by Professor Sube Banerjee The use of antipsychotic medication for people with dementia: Time for action was published in November 2009.
It highlighted a need to ensure that antipsychotic drugs were only prescribed to people with dementia when necessary.
HSCIC chief executive Tim Straughan said: “This audit breaks new ground in examining prescribing patterns for dementia patients and highlights areas that GPs and other practices who want to deliver the best possible care need to focus on.
“It is encouraging that prescribing of antipsychotic drugs is falling. However, it is clear that the picture nationally is mixed and that everyone involved in the care of those with dementia needs to look carefully at how they compare with others in their practices.”