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Clinical impact of antipsychotic and benzodiazepine reduction: findings from a multicomponent psychotropic reduction program within long-term aged care

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 June 2020

Daniel J. Hoyle*
School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, College of Health and Medicine, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia
Gregory M. Peterson
School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, College of Health and Medicine, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia
Ivan K. Bindoff
School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, College of Health and Medicine, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia
Lisa M. Clinnick
Aged Operations, Ballarat Health Services, Sebastopol, VIC, Australia
Aidan D. Bindoff
Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, College of Health and Medicine, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia
Juanita L. Breen
Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, College of Health and Medicine, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia
Correspondence should be addressed to: Daniel Hoyle, School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 26, Hobart, TAS7001, Australia. Phone: +61 3 6226 1529; Fax: +61 3 6226 2870. Email:



To explore the relationships between dose changes to antipsychotic and/or benzodiazepine medications and resident outcomes, including variations in neuropsychiatric symptoms, quality of life (QoL), and social withdrawal, within a multicomponent, interdisciplinary antipsychotic and benzodiazepine dose reduction program.


Prospective, observational, longitudinal study.


The Reducing Use of Sedatives (RedUSe) project involved 150 Australian Long-Term Care Facilities (LTCFs) incorporating auditing and benchmarking of prescribing, education, and multidisciplinary sedative reviews.


A convenience sample of LTCFs (n = 28) involved in RedUSe between January 2015 and March 2016.


Permanent residents (n = 206) of LTCFs involved in RedUSe taking an antipsychotic and/or benzodiazepine daily. Residents were excluded if they had a severe psychiatric condition where antipsychotic therapy should generally be maintained long-term (e.g., bipolar disorder, schizophrenia) or were considered end-stage palliative.


Neuropsychiatric symptoms (Neuropsychiatric Inventory, Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI)), QoL (Assessment of Quality of Life-4D), and social withdrawal (Multidimensional Observation Scale for Elderly Subjects-withdrawal subscale) were measured at baseline and 4 months where nursing staff completed psychometric tests as proxy raters.


There was no evidence that psychometric measures were worsened following dose reductions. In fact, dose reduction was associated with small, albeit non-statistically significant, improvements in behavior, particularly less physically non-aggressive behavior with both drug groups (−0.36 points per 10% reduction in antipsychotic dose, −0.17 per 10% reduction in benzodiazepine dose) and verbally agitated behavior with benzodiazepine reduction (−0.16 per 10% dose reduction), as measured with the CMAI. Furthermore, antipsychotic reduction was associated with non-statistically significant improvements in QoL and social withdrawal.


Antipsychotic and benzodiazepine dose reduction in LTCFs was not associated with deterioration in neuropsychiatric symptoms, QoL, or social withdrawal. Trends toward improved agitation with antipsychotic and benzodiazepine dose reduction require further evaluation in larger, prospective, controlled studies.

Original Research Article
© International Psychogeriatric Association 2020

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