Image of different colored pills spilled onto a flat surface

A brief staff training session on good drug practices for older adults led to significant reduction in psychotropic drug use in assisted living communities, a new study from Finland finds.

The results of the randomized clinical trial were presented during the October 2021 session at the European Geriatric Medicine Society annual congress, as reported by Medscape. Investigators followed prescribing practices for 227 residents aged 65 years and older in 2011. 

Nursing staff were randomly assigned to participate in two 4-hour educational sessions, or to serve as controls. There were 10 wards in each group. In each, nearly two-thirds of residents were taking at least one psychotropic drug, and fully a third of those residents had been prescribed 2 or more of the drugs.

Investigators calculated prescriptions and the resulting costs at 6 and 12 months. Psychotropic drugs included antipsychotics, antidepressants, anxiolytics and hypnotics as classified by the World Health Organization, Medscape reported.

Wards with trained nurses showed a significant reduction in all psychotropic drug use at the 6-month follow-up. In contrast, while there was no change in the control wards. Costs were reduced as well. But the improvement disappeared by 12 months.

“Future research would be investigating how we could maintain the positive effects that were gained at 6 months but not seen any more at 1 year, and how to implement the good practice in nursing homes by this kind of staff training,” said researcher Ulla Aalto, M.D., Ph.D., of Helsinki Hospital.

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