GAO releases study on antipsychotic drug use for dementia cases

Based off a January study, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expand its outreach efforts to reduce antipsychotic drug use among older adults with dementia to include those not living in nursing homes.

Dementia affects millions of older adults, and there are concerns about the use of antipsychotic drugs to treat dementia’s behavioral symptoms.

Approximately 33 percent of older adults with dementia who spent more than 100 days in a nursing home in 2012 were prescribed an antipsychotic, according to data from Medicare Part D. In that same year, 14 percent of Medicare Part D enrollees with dementia, who were living outside of nursing homes, were prescribed an antipsychotic.

Additionally, over 1.2 million Medicare Part D enrollees living outside nursing homes were diagnosed with dementia in 2012, and Medicare Part D pays for these individuals’ antipsychotic drug prescriptions.

“By expanding its outreach and educational efforts to settings outside nursing homes, HHS may be able to help reduce any unnecessary reliance on antipsychotic drugs for the treatment of behavioral symptoms of dementia for all older adults regardless of their residential setting,” GAO said in the study.

GAO recommended that the HHS update the National Alzheimer’s Plan in order to expand its outreach.