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Providers were able to significantly reduce and stop antipsychotic use in dementia patients by taking advantage of a different approach, officials announced.

The study was conducted with dementia patients in long-term care facilities in the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. Findings were announced Wednesday by government officials. 

Researchers were able to successfully reduce antipsychotic use for 28% of patients in Prince Edward Island, while 25% stopped taking the medications. For patients in Newfoundland and Labrador, 22% had their doses reduced, while 30% had their medications discontinued. The patients had no change in aggressive verbal or physical behaviors after the switch was made, researchers said. 

Researchers used the Appropriate Use of Antipsychotics approach (AUA) for the study. The method looks to engage with dementia patients in order to understand the causes of behavioral or underlying issues. It also involves reviewing the appropriateness of antipsychotic medications and developing individualized care plans with alternative activities for the patient. 

Reducing the use of antipsychotics in nursing homes has also been a focus of skilled nursing providers and federal officials in the United States.

Province officials for Prince Edward Island now plan to work with private long-term care homes to expand the reach of the AUA approach following the study results, said Andrew MacDougall, director of long-term care with Health PIE, the province’s Department of Health.  

“We are very proud of how the long-term care homes have fully embraced this approach to care and we congratulate them on their commitment and leadership,” MacDougall said.

The study was a collaboration between the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Health PEI.