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Off-Label Antipsychotic Use in Older Adults with Dementia: Not Just a Nursing Home Problem

Antipsychotic (AP) drugs are often prescribed “off-label” to dementia patients to treat behavioral symptoms of the disease, putting them at increased risk of health events such as stroke and death. While efforts to reduce AP use among dementia patients living in nursing homes are showing some success, less attention is given to older adults living in the community.

The AARP Public Policy Institute recently analyzed insurance claims data and found that rates of AP use among older adults with dementia who live in the community increased by 6%, from 12.6% to 13.4%, between 2012 and 2015. During this same time period antipsychotic use reportedly dropped by 34% among nursing home residents with dementia.

Efforts to reduce the off-label use of antipsychotic drugs among elderly people with dementia should be expanded beyond nursing homes. This is especially important since many nursing home residents begin antipsychotic drugs prior to their arrival at the facility.

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