People with learning disabilities over-prescribed psychiatric drugs

A study by Public Health England (July, 2015) found that people with learning disabilities are regularly prescribed psychiatric drugs without a recorded diagnosis.

The report’s Executive Summary referred to a prior UK government report – Transforming Care – and noted the ‘deep concerns’ of that report about the over-use of antipsychotic and antidepressant medicines in people with learning disabilities and/or autism. It continued:

“… concerns related to the extent to which these drugs are used outside licensed indications with the aim of managing problem behaviour.”

“These concerns related to the extent to which these drugs are used outside licensed indications with the aim of managing problem behaviour. This study [the one from Public Health England] was designed to identify how many people in these groups are treated with these types of drugs, how the drugs are used and how much of this use is for licensed clinical indications.”

The study estimated that 1 in 6 adults with a learning disability is being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs by their GP that are normally used to treat major mental illnesses. Over half of these adults do not have a recorded diagnosis of a condition they are designed to treat.

The report ‘Prescribing of psychotropic drugs to people with learning disabilities and/or autism by general practitioners in England’ reveals that:

  • 17% of adults with a learning disability known to their GP were being prescribed an antipsychotic.
  • Over half (58.1%) did not have a diagnosis in their GP record of a condition which they are designed to treat, including psychosis, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety.
  • At any one time, between 30,000 and 35,000 people with learning disabilities are prescribed either an antipsychotic or an antidepressant (or both) by their GP without having the conditions for which the drugs were designed to treat and have been shown to be effective (this is 1 in every 6 people known to their GP as having a learning disability) …”

Read more here.

People with learning disabilities over-prescribed psychiatric drugs
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