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Overprescribed? Critics say dementia patients receive inappropriate medications

The Ottawa Citizen, Don Butler

Lalita Figueredo’s husband, Allan, has been taking antipsychotic drugs for a decade. But he’s not psychotic. The drugs were prescribed to control his behaviour after his diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2003. That sort of “off-label” use of antipsychotics is common. In the Champlain Local Health Integration Network, which includes Ottawa and much of eastern Ontario, 31.7 per cent of the region’s 7,500 long-term care home residents are on antipsychotics with no diagnosis of psychosis. The ratio is similar elsewhere in Canada. The Canadian Institute for Health Information considers that a “potentially inappropriate” use of medication. Dementia patients have been prescribed antipsychotic drugs for decades to control agitation or aggressive behaviour. But given the risk of significant side-effects or even death, and studies showing that relatively few actually benefit from the drugs, some are questioning their widespread use.

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