(NaturalNews) Elderly dementia patients are being subjected to "scandalous abuse" by being drugged with dangerous antipsychotic drugs, according to a letter by ten influential health organizations, published in The Daily Telegraph.
"[One hundred thousand] people with dementia in care homes are being inappropriately prescribed a damaging chemical cosh of antipsychotic drugs and new research suggests that there is a significant problem in hospitals too," the letter reads. "Antipsychotics should only ever be a last resort. This over prescription is abuse and it must stop. ... We cannot stand by while this scandalous abuse of vulnerable citizens continues."
Although antipsychotic drugs are intended for people with medical conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and are not approved for the treatment of dementia, studies show that nursing homes and hospitals regularly prescribe them to these patients as sedatives, in order to make them easier for doctors and nurses to handle.
Research has shown, however, that antipsychotic drugs can double a patient's risk of death if used for three years. Another study found that dementia patients are three times more likely to suffer a stroke if given antipsychotic drugs.
A 2008 report by British Minister of Parliament Paul Burstow concluded that 23,500 dementia patients are being killed every year by inappropriate prescription of antipsychotics in nursing homes. However, a recent survey by the Alzheimer's Society marks the first time that researchers have looked into the prevalence of the problem in hospitals.
The trust found that three-quarters of nurses surveyed said they had seen antipsychotics used to sedate dementia patients, while one-quarter said they had seen the drugs used inappropriately.
"The massive over prescription of antipsychotics to people with dementia is an abuse of human rights, causing serious side effects and increasing risk of death," said Neil Hunt of the Alzheimer's Society. "The government must take action to ensure that these drugs are only ever used as a last resort."
"While the Department of Health prevaricates, thousands of people are being put at risk through the misuse of antipsychotics," said Rebecca Wood of the Alzheimer's Research Trust.