The dispensing of psychotropic medicines to older people before and after they enter residential aged care

Stephanie L. Harrison, Janet K. Sluggett, Catherine Lang, Craig Whitehead, Maria Crotty, Megan Corlis, Steven L. Wesselingh, Maria C. Inacio

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Objective: To examine the prevalence of psychotropic medicine dispensing before and after older people enter residential care. Design: Retrospective national cohort study; analysis of Registry of Senior Australians (ROSA) data. Setting, participants: All concession card-holding residents of government-subsidised residential aged care facilities in Australia who entered residential care for at least three months between 1 April 2008 and 30 June 2015. Main outcome measures: Proportions of residents dispensed antipsychotic, benzodiazepine, or antidepressant medicines during the year preceding and the year after commencing residential care, by quarter. Results: Of 322 120 included aged care residents, 68 483 received at least one antipsychotic (21.3%; 95% CI, 21.1–21.4%), 98 315 at least one benzodiazepine (30.5%; 95% CI, 30.4–30.7%), and 122 224 residents at least one antidepressant (37.9%; 95% CI, 37.8–38.1%) during their first three months of residential care; 31 326 of those dispensed antipsychotics (45.7%), 38 529 of those dispensed benzodiazepines (39.2%), and 25 259 residents dispensed antidepressants (19.8%) had not received them in the year preceding their entry into care. During the first three months of residential care, the prevalence of antipsychotic (prevalence ratio [PR], 3.37; 95% CI, 3.31–3.43) and antidepressant dispensing (PR, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.04–1.07) were each higher for residents with than for those without dementia; benzodiazepine dispensing was similar for both groups (PR, 1.01; 95% CI, 0.99–1.02). Conclusions: Dispensing of psychotropic medicines to older Australians is high before they enter residential care but increases markedly soon after entry into care. Non-pharmacological behavioural management strategies are important for limiting the prescribing of psychotropic medicines for older people in the community or in residential care. © 2020 AMPCo Pty Ltd
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-313
Number of pages5
JournalThe Medical Journal of Australia
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Antidepressive agents
  • Antipsychotic agents
  • Dementia

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