Skip to main content

Antipsychotics for Sleep: When Did This Become a Thing?



by: Eric Widera (@ewidera)

Sleep.   It’s sometimes hard enough to get enough at home with all the distractions of daily life.   It’s only made more difficult in the hospital setting.

We’ve seen a lot of interventions to help with this that generally consist of pills, because as compared to changing the environment or culture of the hospital, as it’s an easy intervention.  However, most of these have little to no evidence that they work.

The latest one that I just saw in the hospital was prescriptions for quetiapine, an antipsychotic, for sleep.   I thought to myself, well that’s odd.   Hopefully this won’t become a thing.   I’m sad to say, just like Pok√©mon Go, it has.

A study came out last week in JAMA IM titled “Off-label Use of Quetiapine in Medical Inpatients and Postdischarge.”   The authors prospectively enrolled all inpatients 60 years or older between December of 2013 and April of 2015 from a teaching hospital in Quebec, Canada.

One of the authors then looked at all of the medical records for quetiapine prescriptions, dosing, and indication.    If they didn't have a comorbid psychiatric condition (eg, schizophrenia, major depressive, or bipolar affective disorder) or evidence of delirium it was assumed that they were receiving night time dosing of quetiapine for sleep.

What they found was shocking.   One out of every ten patients (13.0%) received quetiapine during hospitalization, 64.0% of which received the medication at bedtime for sleep.  That’s 8% of hospitalized patients getting quetiapine for sleep.   Most of these individuals were newly initiated on this antipsychotic in the hospital.   Sadly, 1 in 7 patients who first received quetiapine for sleep in the hospital was discharged home with at least a 1-month prescription.

Seriously.  Antipsychotics for sleep.  Really, is this the best we can do to help with sleep in the hospital?  If you want to read a good case of why this is just bad practice, take a look at the Teachable Moment case from that same JAMA IM issue.

Is this a thing at your hospital too?








Comments

Jordan Fallis said…
It's ridiculous that these are being prescribed for sleep. They deplete critical nutrients too, yet no one ever discusses it: http://www.optimallivingdynamics.com/blog/7-important-nutrients-depleted-by-psychiatric-drugs-antidepressants-antipsychotics-stimulants-benzodiazepines-induced-guide-vitamins-medications
Helen Chen, MD said…
In post-acute, skilled nursing settings, we are required to consent patients/healthcare proxies whenever we prescribe psychoactive medications and specifically antipsychotics. We have also noticed a small rise in patients being discharged to us on antipsychotics for insomnia, often without their clear understanding or consent. For so many reasons, not a good practice. As attendings and geriatrics consultants we should be taking a stand and educating trainees about the dangers of this approach.
Rodney KSiegel said…
I agree with @Fallis: "It's ridiculous that these are being prescribed for sleep"
Laurie said…
I don't think it's ridiculous. Just take more time for it.

Popular posts from this blog

Dying without Dialysis

There is a terrific article in this weeks Journal of Pain and Symptom Management by Fliss Murtagh of King's College in London about the epidemiology of symptoms for patients with advanced renal failure who die without dialysis.  This study is important because while we know that patients with advanced renal failure have a limited life expectancy and the average age of initiation of hemodialysis is increasing, we know little about the alternatives to hemodialysis.  Specifically, we know nothing about symptoms affecting quality of life among patients who elect not to start dialysis (so called "conservative management" - is this the best label?).  This article provides a terrific counterpoint to the article in last years NEJM showing that nursing home residents who initiated hemodialysis tended to die and decline in function (see GeriPal write up here). 

The study authors followed patients with the most advanced form of chronic kidney disease (the new name for renal failu…

The Dangers of Fleet Enemas

The dangers of oral sodium phosphate preparations are fairly well known in the medical community. In 2006 the FDA issued it’s first warning that patients taking oral sodium phosphate preparations are at risk for potential for acute kidney injury. Two years later, over-the-counter preparations of these drugs were voluntarily withdrawn by the manufacturers.  Those agents still available by prescription were given black box warnings mainly due to acute phosphate nephropathy that can result in renal failure, especially in older adults. Despite all this talk of oral preparations, little was mentioned about a sodium phosphate preparation that is still available over-the-counter – the Fleet enema.

Why Oral Sodium Phosphate Preparations Are Dangerous 

Before we go into the risks of Fleet enemas, lets spend just a couple sentences on why oral sodium phosphate preparations carry significant risks. First, oral sodium phosphate preparations can cause significant fluid shifts within the colon …

Language Matters: Podcast with Brian Block and Anna DeForest

One of our first GeriPal posts was titled "Rant on Terminology," by Patrice Villars, NP.  In the spirit of looking back over our first 10 years, here is the opening paragraph to that post:

News Headlines read: Sen. Edward Kennedy loses battle with cancer. Really, he lost? I thought he died from a malignant brain tumor, an “aggressive” brain tumor. The median survival is less than a year for people for his particular tumor. Kennedy was diagnosed in May of 2008. He lived over 15 months after diagnosis. What a loser. He must not have fought hard enough. Huh? I thought he spent most of his life battling for social and health care reform in America. In this week's GeriPal podcast we take a deeper dive into this issue of language and medicine.  We are joined by guests Anna DeForest, MD, MFA, a resident in Neurology at Yale, and Brian Block, MD, a pulmonary critical care fellow at UCSF.  

Anna recently published a paper in the NEJM describing her reaction to hearing terms like, &…