By Linda Belardi.

NPS MedicineWise has teamed up with a major provider of medication management software to help aged care facilities monitor the safe use of antipsychotic drugs among residents. 

Pharmacies using Webstercare’s medication management software can now provide aged care facilities with a regular report about their use of antipsychotic medicines, benchmarked against published Australian studies. 

Dr Lynn Weekes, CEO of NPS MedicineWise, a not-for-profit organisation supporting the quality use of medicines, said the inappropriate use of antipsychotics could have serious consequences for residents including an increased risk of falls, hip fractures and even death.

“While they can occasionally be effective for short term aggression and psychotic symptoms – we see them being used too often, for too long at high doses and in dangerous combinations,” she said.

Managing director of Webstercare Gerard Stevens said the quality use of medicine report added to the software would support aged care staff to identify high and long-term use and when a resident would benefit from a medicine review from their doctor.

Mr Stevens said around 1,500 pharmacists now have access to the reporting mechanism, reaching at least 60 per cent of aged care facilities in Australia. 

“The report gives aged care staff objective evidence to see where they stand compared to the published studies and to identify those residents in the facility that would benefit from a review, ensuring that residents are not on these drugs passed the point they need to be,” he said.

Mr Stevens said the new reporting functionality would provide valuable data for local Medicine Advisory Committees within residential aged care facilities for review and would help initiate discussion about duration of use and why usage appeared to be high or low.

Facilities would also be able to track results and the progress of strategies implemented over time.

“For example, if staff introduce a strategy to change behaviour within the aged care facility they have the ability to do a retrospective review of the baseline data and then see how patterns of use change over time.

“It is an important tool to raise the awareness of these drugs amongst staff and to help within the total strategy of ensuring the appropriate use of antipsychotics in aged care facilities.”

In addition to designing the quality use of medicine report, NPS MedicineWise has also developed an antipsychotic action plan to help staff prioritise residents for review and an antipsychotic review checklist to document the review process.

Dr Juanita Westbury from the University of Tasmania’s School of Pharmacy said studies have consistently found that high rates of antipsychotics are used in many residential aged care facilities to treat behavioural symptoms in residents with dementia. However, when used for this purpose the benefits are often only minimal.

“Reports on antipsychotic use for residential aged care facilities will serve to heighten awareness on use, identify residents that have been taking this medication for extended periods of time and assist the RACF to implement alternative strategies to reduce the use of these medications.”

Dr Westbury said non-drug treatments, including addressing the reasons for behavioural symptoms such as untreated pain, and providing activities for residents have been shown to be as effective as antipsychotic medication.

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