Many nursing home residents still take antipsychotics, studies find

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Antipsychotic medication use is still widespread in nursing homes, even after the federal government issued a “black box” warning on the drugs in 2005. That is according to two new studies.

In one study, researchers examined the number of times the subject of antipsychotics was brought up during doctors' office visits. Between January 2003 and March 2005, mentions grew at a rate of 16% among elderly residents with dementia. In the year after the advisory was issued, mentions dropped by 19% among this group. Researchers found that in 2008, antipsychotic use fell dramatically but still represented 9% of all prescriptions in this population.

Another study found that one-third of residents in nursing homes were prescribed antipsychotics and that one-third of that number did not have dementia or psychosis. The drugs in question include clozapine, risperidone, olanzapine and paliperidone. Doctors prescribe these drugs, which are designed to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, off-label for residents with dementia. Both studies appeared in Monday's issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.


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