Antipsychotics have been used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorders since the 1970s. Typical or conventional antipsychotics were first approved in the 1970s, followed by atypical agents in the 1990s. Antipsychotics are commonly used in the elderly to treat behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia including delusions, aggression and agitation. Modest benefits have been reported with their use, most often with shorter treatment courses.
New information on the safety of antipsychotic use in the elderly was released between 2000 and 2005. Studies showed that the use of antipsychotics (both typical and atypical) in elderly patients with dementia may be associated with a small increase in the risk of death.
This analysis of NPDUIS Database data from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. examines trends in the use of antipsychotics in seniors between 2001-2002 and 2006-2007.
The age-sex standardized rate of antipsychotic use among seniors on public drug programs increased from 4.3% in 2001-2002 to 5.0% in 2006-2007. The rate of growth of antipsychotic use slowed during the study period. Antipsychotic use was highest among females and seniors 85 and older. The average daily dose used by senior claimants on each chemical was highest among those age 65 to 74, and lowest among those age 85 and older. Senior claimants residing in nursing homes were more likely to use atypical antipsychotics than those living in the community.
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