Geriatric drug utilisation of psychotropics in Belgian nursing homes

Majda Azermai, Monique Elseviers, Mirko Petrovic, Luc Van Bortel, Robert Vander Stichele
Human Psychopharmacology 2011, 26 (1): 12-20

OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of psychotropic drug use in Belgian nursing homes, in relation to residents' and institutional characteristics.

METHODS: The PHEBE project (Prescribing in Homes for the Elderly in Belgium, 2005) was a cross-sectional study, investigating drug use in 76 nursing homes. Psychotropics were categorised into antidepressants, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines and anti-dementia drugs using the ATC classification.

RESULTS: Residents' mean age (n=1730) was 85 (SD: 8) years and 78% were female. The overall prevalence of psychotropic drug use among nursing home residents was 79%. Benzodiazepines were used by 54% and antipsychotics by 33% of all residents. Residents received a higher number of antipsychotics ( p<0.001) but fewer antidepressants (and other medicines) with increasing severity of dementia. Antidepressants were prescribed in 40% of which 2/3 was indicated for depression and 1/3 for insomnia. Anti-dementia drugs were used by 8%. Institutional characteristics showed no relationship with psychotropic drug use, except for a lower use when medication was dispensed by a hospital pharmacist (p=0.001).

CONCLUSION: As in other European countries, the prevalence of psychotropic utilisation in Belgian nursing homes is exceedingly high, with excessive duplicate use. Guidelines, education and clinical practice recommendations focusing on initiation, reassessment and withdrawal of psychotropic therapy, are needed.

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