Researchers find an increase in prescription of antipsychotics

18 Sep 2020 | 2 mins

Antipsychotic drugs are being prescribed at an increasing rate by Australian health practitioners, a new study by scientists from The University of Western Australia has found.

Researchers collected data from the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme between 2006 and 2018 and found the dispensing rates of antipsychotics had increased by 72 per cent. The study was published in Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy.

Antipsychotics are primarily used to treat schizophrenia and mood disorders and work by altering brain chemistry.

While they can be effective in treating a variety of psychiatric conditions, their impact on brain chemistry can also have adverse effects and long-term impacts if the wrong drug or concentration is prescribed.

Lead researcher Niklas Claassen, who carried out the study as part of his Master of Biomedical Science (Neuroscience) at UWA, said the researchers had examined two main classes of antipsychotics: first-generation antipsychotics (FGAs) and second-generation antipsychotics (FGAs).  

FGAs (or typical antipsychotics) were developed in the 1950s whereas SGAs (or atypical antipsychotics) emerged in the 1980s.

“We found that while there was a higher rate of dispensing of antipsychotics in general, particularly SGAs which are better tolerated and less likely to result in adverse neurological reactions. On the other hand, FGAs were less used in recent years,” Mr Claassen said.

“Some of the reasons may be that SGAs are not only tolerated better, but they can be used to treat a variety of conditions such as depression, insomnia, anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, or anorexia nervosa.”

UWA research scholar Alex Park who supervised Niklas in the study said the findings showed different trends in the prescription of antipsychotics, but further investigation was needed to understand the causes of why more prescriptions were being administered.

“It might be that the increase is due to more people requiring these medications, and that these prescriptions are justified, or there may be other causes at play,” he said.

“We hope these results will spark discussion and further research and will help policymakers assess whether prescribers are adhering to the national guidelines such as those set by The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.” 

Media references

Jess Reid, UWA Media & PR Adviser, 08 6488 6876

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