Cooper, C. et al. Age Ageing (2015).
Background: UK National Dementia Strategies prioritise fair access to dementia treatments for the whole population. We investigated for the first time inequalities in NHS national dementia prescribing and how they have varied between UK countries and over time.
Method: we investigated the association between Townsend deprivation score and anti-dementia drug prescribing in 77,045 dementia patients from UK primary care records from 2002 to 2013.
Results: we included 77,045 patients with recorded dementia diagnosis or anti-dementia drug prescription. Least deprived patients were 25% more likely to be initiated on anti-dementia drugs than the most deprived (adjusted incidence rate ratio 1.25, 95% confidence interval 1.19–1.31). This was driven by data from English practices where prescribing rates were consistently lower in more deprived patients compared with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, where prescribing was not related to deprivation quintile. Compared with English practices, anti-dementia medication was prescribed more often in Northern Irish (1.81, 1.41–2.34) and less in Welsh practices (0.68, 0.55–0.82), with a trend towards more prescribing in Scottish practices (1.14, 0.98–1.32). Drug initiation rates were also higher in younger people and men.
Conclusion: four years after the English National Dementia Strategy, there is no evidence that the Strategy’s key objective of reducing treatment inequalities is being achieved. Higher overall anti-dementia drug prescribing in Scottish and Northern Irish practices, and differing clinical guidelines in Scotland from other UK countries might explain greater equality in prescribing in these countries. Strategies to offer treatment to more deprived people with dementia in England are needed.