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Published on 13 November 2009

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Dementia drugs used “unnecessarily”

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Chemical cosh dementia treatments are being administered unnecessarily to up to 150,000 people, a Government review has claimed.

The report, by a mental health and ageing expert, said that only a fifth of people who were administered the drugs, either in care homes or hospitals, were gaining anything from the treatment.

Previous research has surrounded the anti-psychotics with controversy, as they were shown to increase the chances of death and strokes.

The Government-ordered review estimates that overprescribing of the drugs is linked to an extra 1,800 deaths a year among elderly people.

Overall in the UK, 180,000 people with dementia are thought to be on the medicines, with only around 36,000 getting any benefit.

They are prescribed to control symptoms such as aggression, agitation and hallucinations but critics say they are often given to heavily sedate people – the so-called “chemical cosh”.

In his review, Sube Banerjee, professor of mental health and ageing at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said people stayed on the drugs for far too long and benefit was generally outweighed by harm.

There are a “lot of people treated with drugs that are potentially harmful,” he said, adding the benefits were “relatively small”.

Copyright Press Association 2009

Sube Banerjee profile



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