The number of patients with dementia being prescribed antipsychotics has reduced by more than half in three years, an audit carried out by the NHS Information Centre has found.
The audit collected data from 3,800 GP practices overseeing nearly 197,000 patients with dementia and found a 52% reduction in antipsychotic prescriptions between 2008 and 2011.
It also found large regional variation in the prescription of antipsychotics, with rates of prescribing up to six times higher in some areas than others.
In March this year, Prime Minister David Cameron renewed a pledge to reduce NHS prescribing of antipsychotics for patients with dementia by two-thirds as part of his ‘challenge on dementia’.
But Pulse revealed earlier this month that antipsychotic prescribing had fallen by only 16% since the Government’s announcement, with PCTs commissioning few alternatives to antipsychotics despite NICE guidelines recommending them as a last option.
Pulse’s analysis showed that one in 10 PCTs does not commission any alternative dementia treatments for GPs to refer to, while in other areas waiting times for such treatments can be up to six months.
Commenting on the results of the audit, a spokesperson for Alzheimers UK said: ‘There still tens of thousands more people – both diagnosed and undiagnosed – having their lives put at risk by these drugs.
‘Now is the time to move from fourth gear to fifth to ensure everyone’s prescriptions are reviewed and that only those people who benefit are kept on antipsychotics. They must only be a last resort.’