Three major health bodies have committed to taking collaborative action to address the inappropriate use of psychotropic medicines.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care have issued a joint statement highlighting the overuse of mood stabilisers and sedatives as a restrictive practice in the disability and aged care sectors.

“By working together with other key individuals and organisations within the health, aged care and disability sectors, to reduce inappropriate use of psychotropic medicines, the ACQSC, the NDIS Commission and the ACSQHC aim to improve the quality and safety of health, aged care and disability supports for all Australians,” reads the statement – the first formal joint statement from the three commissions on the inappropriate use of psychotropic medicines.

Joint work on psychotropic medicines

The ACQSC, the ACSQHC and the NDIS Commission recognise there is:

  • evidence that psychotropic medicines are being overprescribed and overused, in particular with older people and people with disability
  • little evidence that psychotropic medicines are effective for managing behaviours of concern
  • evidence that psychotropic medicines contribute to risks of harm to older people and people with disability, including by contributing to risk of falls, weight gain, hypertension and diabetes, by adversely affecting the person’s ability to swallow, and by increasing the risk for aspiration pneumonia and other respiratory complications
  • evidence that psychotropic medicines can diminish the wellbeing and quality of life of older people and people with disability.

The three agencies have agreed to work together to reduce the inappropriate use of psychotropic medicines through:

  • raising awareness of the risks associated with inappropriate use of psychotropic medicines amongst healthcare, aged care and disability workforces
  • supporting improvements in the availability and quality of behaviour support planning and preventative and de-escalation strategies
  • strengthening understanding and capacity for appropriate informed consent, prescribing, dispensing, administration and cessation of psychotropic medicines.

Among many of its identifications, the aged care royal commission recognised an over-reliance on chemical restraint as a priority concern in the aged care sector. As Australian Ageing Agenda reported only last week, families are also concerned about the number of psychotropic drugs prescribed to their loved ones in aged care facilities.

The high prevalence of psychotropic drug use in aged care facilities in Australia is a long-standing issue. A 2018 nationwide study found that 22 per cent of residents were taking an antipsychotic, 22 per cent were taking benzodiazepine and 41 per cent were taking an antidepressant regularly.

Greg Hunt

Describing the collaborative action to address the misuse of psychotropic drugs as “groundbreaking”, Minister for Aged Care Greg Hunt said: “It can provide a real opportunity and impetus for the type of systemic change highlighted by both the disability royal commission and the aged care royal commission.”

Following the royal commission’s findings, new requirements regarding the use of restrictive practices in aged care were introduced in September 2021.

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2 Comments

  1. Would someone be kind enough to describe for me a world without psychotropic medications please. I’ve worked with dementia residents for over forty years and the aggression, agitation, depression, anxiety etc is very real.
    It’s ludicrous to know that a person in the community living with mental issues can readily be managed with psychotropics but that can’t be continued in a nursing home.
    Without these medications you will see considerably more behavioral issues. Imagine living in the next room to someone that goes into an uncontrollable rage at sunset every day and all that can be done is to attempt to distract and keep other residents safe while trying desperately to avoid being punched yourself.
    A little common sense and a bit less hysteria please.
    These medications are prescribed by doctors but the impression given to the public is that nursing homes can dish out drugs willy nilly… nothing is further from the truth.

  2. After implementing Painchek, an aged care facility remarkably reduced its residents on psychotropics for its memory unit from 17 to just one.

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