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02.06.16

GPs urged to reduce inappropriate psychotropic prescriptions

Unnecessary psychotropic drugs are being repeatedly prescribed to patients with autism and other learning disabilities, NHS England has warned as it launched a new pledge to encourage healthcare professionals to reduce inappropriate prescriptions.

An estimated 35,000 adults with learning disabilities are being prescribed antipsychotics, antidepressants and other drugs without clinical justification, putting them at risk of weight gain, organ failure and death due to long-term use of the medications.

Prescription often starts at a specialist level to manage challenging behaviour and is then passed onto GPs, who often continue to prescribe the drugs without renewing whether they are necessary.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s national medical director, said: “Reducing use of powerful drugs whenever we can is a good thing. We have managed this successfully in dementia; it’s now time to bring similar benefits to patients who have a learning disability.”

At a summit in London yesterday, representatives of the royal colleges and the British Psychological Society, as well as health minister Alistair Burt and Hazel Watson, head of mental health and learning disabilities at NHS England, signed the Stopping Over-Medication of People with a Learning Disability (STOMPLD) pledge.

Dr Matt Hoghton, medical director for the Royal College of GPs clinical innovation and research centre, said: “Working collaboratively between healthcare professionals and carers is really important in tackling the appropriate use of psychotropic drugs in our patients with learning disabilities, and signing this pledge today is an important commitment to ensuring they receive the best possible care.”

NHS England also issued new guidelines recommending that GPs review the prescription of psychotropic drugs to patients with learning disabilities in their practice. Reviews are already taking place in Trafford, Salford and Newcastle.

NICE warned last year that antipsychotics should not be the ‘first resort’ for challenging behaviour.

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