The pharmaceutical care of people with learning disabilities is failing to deliver basic standards and needs urgent reform, including a greater role for pharmacists, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) says.
A report published by Public Health England on 14 July 2015 found one in six adults with learning disabilities but no diagnosis of mental illness are prescribed antipsychotic drugs by GPs. Over half of patients with learning disabilities who are prescribed the drugs have no recorded diagnosis of a condition that these medications are designed to treat.
In a statement, Sandra Gidley, chair of the English Pharmacy Board of the RPS, says this situation is cause for “deep concern”.
“No one should be taking medicines unless there are clear, documented and reasoned explanations for their continued use,” she says. “The current system fails to deliver this fundamental standard of care for people with learning disabilities. Reform is urgently needed and we are determined to play our part in ensuring this happens.”
She says that although no research has been undertaken specifically on the physical health implications of long-term use of such drugs on people with learning disabilities, past studies in patients with schizophrenia and dementia showed “significantly increased risk of movement disorders, anticholinergic effects, stroke and death”.
Gidley adds: “We believe pharmacists could play a much bigger role in ensuring patient safety through regular person-centred medicines reviews, working in an integrated team with patient and their carers.”
NHS England is set to issue a “call to action” to reduce inappropriate prescribing of psychotropic drugs to people with learning disabilities.