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Study criticises GPs' antipsychotic use

GPs are prescribing antipsychotic drugs inappropriately and outside their licensed indications, a new audit reveals.

The Medical Defence Union warned GPs could leave themselves at medicolegal risk if they failed to follow clear procedures when prescribing drugs off-label.

Researchers found one in 100 patients received antipsychotic medication and in half of cases GP prescribing failed at least one of nine criteria for optimal patient care.

The most common reasons were a lack of a psychotic disorder diagnosis or problematic side-effects. In the majority of those who did have a clear diagnosis, antipsychotics were being prescribed off-licence.

Study leader Professor Ann Mortimer, foundation chair in psychiatry at the University of Hull, warned against the prescribing of antipsychotics for any reason other than those listed in the BNF. 'Antipsychotics shouldn't be given for anything except for psychoses. Doctors shouldn't be dishing them out for anxiety and sleeping disorders. The majority of prescribing was off-licence.'

Dr Nick Norwell, medicolegal adviser for the MDU, said: 'There must be a reasonable body of opinion that would support the use of that drug in those circumstances.'

The study, published in

Annals of General Psychiatry, anal-ysed data from 53,000 patients.

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