Psychotropic drugs are frequently used for the treatment of behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia in persons with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Evidence for benefits are limited and concerns have been raised about the safety, especially for the concomitant use of multiple psychotropic drugs. The objective of this study was to investigate prevalence of psychotropic drug and psychotropic polypharmacy (PPP) use and associations with PPP among persons with and without AD, from five years before until four years after AD diagnosis at time points every six months. Data is a part of the nationwide MEDALZ cohort, including all community-dwelling persons who received a clinically verified diagnosis of AD between 2005 and 2011 in Finland (n = 70,719). Register-based data included purchased prescription drugs, comorbidities, and hospital discharge diagnoses. Prevalence and factors associated with PPP were studied with logistic regression. The prevalence of psychotropic drug use, especially use of antipsychotics and antidepressants, increased during the course of AD. The use of ≥ 2 psychotropic drugs increased from 5.9% five years before to 18.3% four years after AD diagnosis. The most frequently used combination was antipsychotics and antidepressants. Predictors for PPP were younger age (< 75 years), female sex and history of psychiatric disease. The use of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors was inversely associated with PPP. The high prevalence of PPP is concerning because of possible higher risks for adverse effects and events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1260-1269
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Psychotropic drugs
  • Psychotropic polypharmacy
  • Dementia


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