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Movement side effects of antipsychotic drugs in adults with and without intellectual disability: UK population-based cohort study

03 Aug 2017


To measure the incidence of movement side effects of antipsychotic drugs in adults with intellectual disability and compare rates with adults without intellectual disability.


Cohort study using data from The Health Improvement Network.


UK primary care.


Adults with intellectual disability prescribed antipsychotic drugs matched to a control group of adults without intellectual disability prescribed antipsychotic drugs.

Outcome measures

New records of movement side effect including acute dystonias, akathisia, parkinsonism, tardive dyskinaesia and neuroleptic malignant syndrome.


9013 adults with intellectual disability and a control cohort of 34 242 adults without intellectual disability together contributed 148 709 person-years data. The overall incidence of recorded movement side effects was 275 per 10 000 person-years (95% CI 256 to 296) in the intellectual disability group and 248 per 10 000 person-years (95% CI 237 to 260) in the control group. The incidence of any recorded movement side effect was significantly greater in people with intellectual disability compared with those without (incidence rate ratio 1.30, 95% CI 1.18 to 1.42, p<0.001, after adjustment for potential confounders), with parkinsonism and akathisia showing the greatest difference between the groups. Neuroleptic malignant syndrome, although occurring infrequently, was three times more common in people with intellectual disability-prescribed antipsychotic drugs (incidence rate ratio 3.03, 95% CI 1.26 to 7.30, p=0.013). Differences in rates of movement side effects between the groups were not due to differences in the proportions prescribed first and second-generation antipsychotic drugs.


This study provides evidence to substantiate the long-held assumption that people with intellectual disability are more susceptible to movement side effects of antipsychotic drugs. Assessment for movement side effects should be integral to antipsychotic drug monitoring in people with intellectual disability. Regular medication review is essential to ensure optimal prescribing in this group.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open