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Research Suggests Antipsychotics are Over-Prescribed to Intellectually Disabled

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Patrick Murray2 years ago

New research suggests that general practitioners are prescribing antipsychotic medicine to intellectually disabled patients at an alarming rate.

About the Antipsychotic Prescription Research

According to Medscape, the research, conducted by members of the Division of Psychiatry and the Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health at the University College London, finds that not only are some people with intellectual disabilities being prescribed antipsychotics, but a substantial proportion.

The researchers are calling for changes to be made in the healthcare landscape, saying the improper prescription of such drugs carries serious adverse implication for the patient as well as the healthcare system as a whole.

As such, they urge that healthcare providers adopt optimized medicine programs which focus on enhancing front line healthcare professionals and accurately diagnosing mental illness in patients with intellectual disabilities. The researchers also encourage the development and use of therapeutic strategies as an alternative to excessive use of psychotropic drugs.

Critics of the research are praising the findings of the researchers for its strengths, including a large data set (over 30,000 patients) and its long-lasting periods of study (averaging 5½ years per patient).

The research, while praised for its strengths, cannot determine beyond a reasonable doubt why general practitioners are overprescribing antipsychotics. This obviously causes a huge problem in overcoming this issue. The researchers realize this and admit that there is still a lot of research to be done. This of course takes time, but in the meantime, the researchers call for “trying to provide the best care that we can and regularly reviewing medication.” These precautions may go a long way in prevention.

Overview of the Antipsychotic Study

  • The study consisted of 31,016 adults (58% male)
  • Intellectual disability was registered with the Health Improvement Network clinical database using 571 general practices
  • Average follow-up period was 5½ years
  • 21% of patients had a recorded mental illness
  • 49% (eventually rising to 63%) of patients were prescribed antipsychotics
  • 71% of patients prescribed antipsychotics did not have any record of mental illness
  • The research also showed that the elderly (80 years or older) were 2.72 times more likely to be prescribed antipsychotics than patients aged 18 to 29 years


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