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ARCHIVE: Antipsychotic prescribing and mortality in people with dementia before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: retrospective cohort study

Antipsychotic drugs have been associated with increased mortality, stroke and myocardial infarction in people with dementia. Concerns have been raised that antipsychotic prescribing may have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic due to social restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the virus. We used multisource, routinely-collected healthcare data from Wales, UK, to investigate prescribing and mortality trends in people with dementia before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We used individual-level, anonymised, population-scale linked health data to identify adults aged ≥60 years with a diagnosis of dementia in Wales, UK. We explored antipsychotic prescribing trends over 67 months between 1st January 2016 and 1st August 2021, overall and stratified by age and dementia subtype. We used time series analyses to examine all-cause, myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke mortality over the study period and identified the leading causes of death in people with dementia.

During the COVID-19 pandemic there was a small increase in antipsychotic prescribing in people with dementia. The long-term increase in antipsychotic prescribing in younger people and in those with Alzheimer’s disease warrants further investigation.

British Heart Foundation (BHF) (SP/19/3/34678) via the BHF Data Science Centre led by HDR UK, and the Scottish Neurological Research Fund.

Evidence before this study:
We searched Ovid MEDLINE for studies describing antipsychotic prescribing trends in people with dementia during the COVID-19 pandemic, published between 1st January 2020 and 22nd March 2022. The following search terms were used: (exp Antipsychotic Agents/ OR OR OR OR exp Risperidone/ OR OR exp Quetiapine Fumarate/ OR OR exp Olanzapine/ OR exp Psychotropic Drugs/ or AND (exp Dementia/ OR exp Alzheimer Disease/ or AND (prescri*.mp OR exp Prescriptions/ OR exp Electronic Prescribing/ OR trend*.mp OR time The search identified 128 published studies, of which three were eligible for inclusion. Two studies, based on data from England and the USA, compared antipsychotic prescribing in people with dementia before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both reported an increase in the proportion of patients prescribed an antipsychotic after the onset of the pandemic. A third study, based in the Netherlands, reported antipsychotic prescription trends in nursing home residents with dementia during the first four months of the pandemic, comparing prescribing rates to the timings of lifting of social restrictions, showing that antipsychotic prescribing rates remained constant throughout this period.

Original content: Health Data Research Innovation Gateway