More than half of the prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs in the UK are being issued “off-label” to treat conditions other than those for which the drugs are approved, according to a large study published in the British Medical Journal Open. Researchers also found significantly higher levels of prescribing of the medications to poorer people.
The team of University College London researchers examined instances of nearly 48,000 people in the UK receiving antipsychotics between 2007 and 2011. Most of these people were not being given the drugs as treatments for schizophrenia, psychosis or bipolar disorders for which the drugs have been studied and approved by the government, the researchers found, but for other conditions, such as anxiety, depression, dementia, sleep and personality disorders.
“The prescribing rate was significantly higher in women than in men, and people aged 80 and above were more than twice as likely to be treated with an antipsychotic as those aged 40-49,” stated a press release about the study. “Those living in areas of deprivation were more than three times as likely to be prescribed one of these drugs as those living in areas of affluence.”