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Keywords:

  • older adults;
  • elderly;
  • psychotropic drugs;
  • nursing homes;
  • homes for the aged;
  • drug utilisation;
  • pharmacoepidemiology

Abstract

Objective

To determine the prevalence of psychotropic drug use in Belgian nursing homes, in relation to residents' and institutional characteristics.

Methods

The PHEBE project (Prescribing in Homes for the Elderly in Belgium, 2005) was a cross-sectional study, investigating drug use in 76 nursing homes. Psychotropics were categorised into antidepressants, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines and anti-dementia drugs using the ATC classification.

Results

Residents' mean age (n = 1730) was 85 (SD: 8) years and 78% were female. The overall prevalence of psychotropic drug use among nursing home residents was 79%. Benzodiazepines were used by 54% and antipsychotics by 33% of all residents. Residents received a higher number of antipsychotics (p < 0.001) but fewer antidepressants (and other medicines) with increasing severity of dementia. Antidepressants were prescribed in 40% of which 2/3 was indicated for depression and 1/3 for insomnia. Anti-dementia drugs were used by 8%. Institutional characteristics showed no relationship with psychotropic drug use, except for a lower use when medication was dispensed by a hospital pharmacist (p = 0.001).

Conclusion

As in other European countries, the prevalence of psychotropic utilisation in Belgian nursing homes is exceedingly high, with excessive duplicate use. Guidelines, education and clinical practice recommendations focusing on initiation, reassessment and withdrawal of psychotropic therapy, are needed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.