Background: Previous meta-analyses have suggested that antipsychotics are associated with increased mortality in dementia patients with behavioral and psychological symptoms (BPSD). Subsequent observational studies, however, have produced conflicting results. In view of this controversy and the lack of any suitable pharmacological alternative for BPSD, this study aimed to investigate the relationship between continuous use of antipsychotics and mortality as well as hospitalizations in Chinese older adults with BPSD residing in nursing homes.
Methods: This was a prospective cohort study conducted in nursing homes in the Central & Western and Southern Districts of Hong Kong from July 2009 to December 2010. Older adults were stratified into the exposed group (current users of antipsychotics) and control group (non-users). Demographics, comorbidity according to the Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI), Barthel Index (BI(20)), Abbreviated Mental Test (AMT), and vaccination status for pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) 2009, seasonal influenza and pneumococcus were collected at baseline. Subjects were followed up at 18 months. All-cause mortality and all-cause hospitalizations were recorded.
Results: 599 older adults with dementia from nine nursing homes were recruited. The 18-month mortality rate for the exposed group was 24.1% while that for control group was 27.5% (P = 0.38). The exposed group also had a lower median rate of hospitalizations (56 (0–111) per 1000 person-months vs 111 (0–222) per 1000 person-months, median (interquartile range), p<0.001).
Conclusions: The continuous use of antipsychotics for BPSD does not increase mortality among Chinese older adults with dementia living in nursing homes. Furthermore, our results show that the use of antipsychotics can lead to decreased hospitalizations.