Despite their adverse effects, antipsychotics are frequently prescribed to manage behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD). At present, we do not have a good understanding of general practitioners' (GPs) current management of BPSD.
To explore the knowledge, attitudes, and opinions of GPs regarding the prescribing of psychoactive drugs in managing BPSD.
This was a descriptive cross-sectional study. A questionnaire was adapted from a previous study and piloted with three GPs and was posted to a census sample of all GPs working in counties Cork and Kerry, Ireland. We collected and analysed both quantitative and qualitative data.
Of the 456 eligible GPs who received the questionnaire, 168 GPs returned completed questionnaires (response rate 36.8%). All respondents (100%, 168/168) believed that antipsychotics did not benefit all patients with BPSD. The majority of GPs (69%, 116/168) routinely recommended non-pharmacological interventions before medication to manage BPSD. Most GPs (60.7%, 102/168) welcomed more training and experience to improve their management of BPSD. The qualitative comments provided by GPs described a pressure to prescribe from nursing home staff. GPs highlighted that the management of BPSD is difficult in daily practice and felt that antipsychotics still have a role to play.
This study identified several factors influencing the prescription of antipsychotics for patients with BPSD as well as the prescribing dilemmas faced by GPs in their daily practice. These findings can be used to guide future interventions aimed at reducing inappropriate prescribing in dementia care.