The Food and Drug Administration has long warned that administering antipsychotic drugs to people with dementia is dangerous. That practice can increase the risk of premature death. Previous studies suggest that this danger is even greater than generally appreciated (Maust et al, JAMA Psychiatry, May 2015).

Nursing Home Residents Are Being Given Antipsychotic Drugs:

Despite the black box warning in the prescribing information, too many nursing home residents with dementia are being treated with these drugs on a regular basis. That’s the conclusion from a report put out by the Human Rights Watch (Human Rights Watch, Feb. 5, 2018).

The organization estimates that more than 179,000 elderly residents of nursing homes are being overmedicated in order to reduce disruptive behavior. Medications such as aripiprazole (Abilify), olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal) and quetiapine (Seroquel) are classified as atypical antipsychotics. They are approved for treating schizophrenia. It is unlikely that such medicines can improve dementia, though it may make some older people more docile.

Use of Antipsychotic Drugs Is Down Slightly:

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services report that use of antipsychotic drugs has declined about 10 percent in nursing homes over the last six years. The rates went from approximately 25 percent to around 15 percent of nursing home residents on such medications. That’s an improvement, but there is still a long way to go to reduce the misuse of these drugs.

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