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Antipsychotic use in the elderly: shifting trends and increasing costs


Objective — The purpose of this study was to assess trends in utilization and costs of antipsychotic drugs among a population of older adults over time, with respect to the prevalence of users, shifts in prescribing patterns, and related financial implications.

Design — Cross-sectional time series of quarterly and annual antipsychotic utilization and cost were obtained from administrative databases for calendar years 1993 through 2002.

Setting and Participants — A population-based study of more than 1.4 million residents of the province of Ontario aged 65 years or older.

Measurements: Data sources used included the Ontario Drug Benefits (ODB) database and Statistics Canada census data.

Results — The prevalence of antipsychotic users increased by 34.8% over the study period from 2.2% at the beginning of 1993 to 3.0% of the elderly at the end of 2002 (p < 0.01). This was associated with a 749% increase in total cost (from $3.7 million in 1993 to $31.4 million in 2002; p < 0.01). The atypical antipsychotics, which were not available in 1993, made up 82.5% of the antipsychotics dispensed and 95.2% of costs in 2002.

Conclusions — The modest increase in antipsychotic prevalence in the elderly over the last ten years has been associated with a substantial increase in cost, with a significant shift towards use of the atypical antipsychotics. As the atypical antipsychotics are increasingly used for patients with dementia, which is becoming more prevalent in the aging population, an understanding of the benefits of these medications must be balanced with a detailed understanding of the material and financial implications.



Rapoport M, Mamdani M, Shulman KI, Herrmann N, Rochon PA. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2005; 20(8):749-53.

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