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Care homes’ elderly ‘given wrong drugs’

ELDERLY people in care in Northern Ireland are being prescribed mind-altering medicines they don’t need, according to a report presented to a healthconference.

The British Pharmaceutical Conference was told many residents were victims of a drug culture within such institutions.

Age Concern said it is worried about the effects of medication used to sedate people where there is no clinical reason for
giving it.

The BPC national meeting in Manchester was told that 51 per cent of nursing home patients are taking inappropriate psychoactive drugs.

A separate study also describes how inappropriate prescribing of psychoactive drugs may be a result of a mindset among staff within an organisation.

Psychotropic medications have traditionally been used in nursing homes to sedate residents.

Two pharmacy studies in Northern Ireland have focused on these drugs.
One found that an adapted American model of pharmaceutical care resulted in a 74 per cent decrease in the number of residents who received inappropriate psychoactive medications.

Researcher Susan Patterson said: “In nursing homes, study indicated that there is a 51 per cent prevalence of inappropriate prescribing. This is a known risk factor for adverse drug events for elderly residents.

“Pharmacists are the experts in medicines and they have a significant role to play in terms of finding and championing innovations that reduce risks for patients.”

A second study found, through interviewing workers in two nursing homes, that psychoactive drugs were often prescribed at times of staff shortages and could be seen as a way of keeping residents calm and “make life easier” for employees.

Dr Carmel Hughes, from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University, who carried out the study, said proper documentation was not always kept on the issuing of drugs.

“We know it’s not an easy task and the issue is quite complicated, but records sometimes are not all they should be,” she said.

Dr Hughes said this could mean people get wrong medicines or dosages.
An Age Concern spokeswoman said: “Inappropriate prescribing is a matter of great concern, and medication to sedate residents when there is no clinical need is a particular issue.

“Care should be provided in a manner which respects and promotes the dignity and human rights of vulnerable older people.”

No one from the Department of Health was available for comment yesterday.

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