British health professionals have called for a change in the treatment of dementia patients after an official report warned that wrongly prescribed anti-psychotic medicines are causing the deaths of an estimated 1,800 each year.
As many as 144,000 out of an estimated 180,000 people suffering from the disease are unnecessarily given powerful "chemical cosh" drugs, the Department of Health-ordered review revealed.
The report also linked a significant number of strokes among elderly patients due to over prescription of the medication.
"We need to be sure that only the people who benefit from these drugs get them, and they get them at the lowest possible dose for the shortest period of time," Sube Banerjee, the report's author and professor of mental health at King?s College London Institute of Psychiatry, said in the report.
"It is clear that these medications are being prescribed to deal with behaviour and psychological symptoms in dementia rather than just for psychosis," he added.
Banerjee urged social care services to develop a "different mindset" in tackling the issue.
There are presently 700,000 people in the country with the condition, but the numbers are expected to rise to one million in the next decade because of an ageing population.
"We know there are situations where anti-psychotic drug use is necessary - we're not calling for a ban, but we do want to see a significant reduction in use," said care services minister Phil Hope.
Neil Hunt, chief executive of Britain's Alzheimer's Society, welcomed the review saying the recognition of the scale of the problem was long overdue.
"This goes beyond quality of care. It is a fundamental rights issue. Our members tell us of enormous worry and distress over what is happening to their loved ones," he added.