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Original article

Vol. 141 No. 3940 (2011)

Psychotropic medication use in Swiss nursing homes

  • I Lustenberger
  • B Schüpbach
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2011;141:w13254


BACKGROUND: Psychotropic medication is commonly used in nursing homes, to treat behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) for example. Treatment with antipsychotics may improve BPSD in some residents but can be associated with serious side effects, such as higher mortality, faster disease progression and cerebrovascular events. In the current study, psychotropic medication use was analysed in a representative sample of nursing home residents in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, at entry and during follow-up.

METHODS: Retrospective analysis of the Resident Assessment Instrument Minimum Data Set (RAI-MDS) of 90 nursing homes at entry (n = 18853) and during follow-up (n = 12101).

RESULTS: At entry, 7580 residents (40.2%) were diagnosed with dementia and 49.0% of them had behavioural symptoms. Residents with dementia received more psychotropic medication than residents without dementia (70.8% vs. 55.0%; p<0.001). The most commonly prescribed medications were antipsychotics (demented 44.8% vs. non-demented 17.4%; p<0.001) and antidepressants (demented 29.6% vs. non-demented 26.7%; p<0.001). Antipsychotics were mainly prescribed for residents with dementia and behavioural disturbances. The longitudinal analysis revealed that most residents with dementia (69.5%) took antipsychotics continuously from entry to the final assessment and the same was true for antidepressants (66.1%). The use of antipsychotics at baseline in residents with dementia predicted (p<0.001) the use of antipsychotics during follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: The long term use of antipsychotics in nursing homes may need to be reconsidered in view of novel treatment recommendations, suggesting that the prescription of antipsychotics for patients with dementia should be a second line treatment, restricted to symptoms of psychosis or severe aggression, and prescribed for the shortest duration possible.


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