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New Research Shows Patients Can Be Taken Off Antipsychotic Medication without Behavioral Consequences

There’s been much debate recently regarding the overmedicating of nursing home patients with dementia. But new research shows that it is safe to take most dementia residents off of antipsychotic drugs without behavioral consequences.

According to an article on McKnights.com, the Cochrane Dementia and Cognitive Improvement Group, part of the international healthcare research organization the Cochrane Collaboration, reviewed nine trials with 606 participants, most of them nursing home residents. The trials studied what would happen when patients with dementia were taken off antipsychotic medications.

The researchers found that it is generally safe and advisable to stop giving antipsychotic medication to patients with symptoms of dementia, including agitation, aggression, depression, wandering, and delusions. But one exception may be older patients who have had more severe neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS). The study found that discontinuing antipsychotic medication has few or no negative effects and may improve verbal fluency.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services set a goal to reduce the use of antipsychotics in dementia patients by the end of 2012. Although facilities fell short of that goal, many long-term care organizations continue to push for the reduction in use.