Psychotropic medications and the transition into care: a national data linkage study

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2013 Feb;61(2):215-21. doi: 10.1111/jgs.12101. Epub 2013 Jan 15.


Objectives: To determine whether excessive and often inappropriate or dangerous psychotropic drug dispensing to older adults is unique to care homes or is a continuation of community treatment.

Design: Population-based data-linkage study using prescription drug information.

Setting: Northern Ireland's national prescribing database and care home information from the national inspectorate.

Participants: Two hundred fifty thousand six hundred seventeen individuals aged 65 and older.

Measurements: Prescription information was extracted for all psychotropic drugs included in the British National Formulary (BNF) categories 4.1.1, 4.1.2, and 4.2.2 (hypnotics, anxiolytics, and antipsychotics) dispensed over the study period. Repeated cross-sectional analysis was used to monitor changes in psychotropic drug dispensing over time.

Results: Psychotropic drug use was higher in care homes than the community; 20.3% of those in care homes were dispensed an antipsychotic in January 2009, compared with 1.1% of those in the community. People who entered care had higher use of psychotropic medications before entry than those who did not enter care, but this increased sharply in the month of admission and continued to rise. Antipsychotic drug dispensing increased from 8.2% before entry to 18.6% after entering care (risk ratio (RR) = 2.26, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.96-2.59) and hypnotic drug dispensing from 14.8% to 26.3% (RR=1.78, 95% CI=1.61-1.96).

Conclusion: A continuation of high use before entry cannot wholly explain the higher dispensing of psychotropic drugs to individuals in care homes. Although drug dispensing is high in older people in the community, it increases dramatically on entry to care. Routine medicine reviews are necessary in older people and are especially important during transitions of care.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Dementia / drug therapy*
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Utilization
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Northern Ireland
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Psychotropic Drugs