Antipsychotic drugs branded ‘archaic and dangerous’ were given to dementia patients during the coronavirus lockdown to keep them sedated.
Experts say the medication carries risks of premature death and is used to treat behaviour and symptoms including aggression and agitation.
Until this year the the use of the drugs had fallen over fears over whether their dangers outweighed any benefits.
But the coronavirus pandemic has seen prescriptions for the treatments rise as medics have looked to keep some patients sedate during the crisis.
Family of retired dinner lady Lily Frost believe her death, aged 86, was connected to the powerful drugs she received to calm night-time agitation.
Daughter Brenda Vickers, 68, of Chester, said: ‘The change was rapid. Prescription of these drugs has to stop.’
Fiona Carragher, of Alzheimer’s Society, told the Daily Express: ‘Anti-psychotic drugs are an “archaic and dangerous” way to treat dementia behavioural symptoms for by far the majority of people who have it.
‘People with dementia have already been worst hit by coronavirus, dying in their thousands. We must prevent any further devastating knock-on effects.
‘We need to know much more about where and why this rise is happening so our health and social care system can protect people with dementia and give them the quality of care they deserve.’
A study by Professor Robert Howard, of University College London, published in the Lancet Neurology medical journal, showed NHS figures showing prescriptions rose in March and April.
A total of 43,352 dementia patients – nearly a tenth of all on the dementia register – had a recent prescription for antipsychotic medication in September.
Former Conservative minister Sir Mike Penning said: ‘It is very worrying if these drugs are being prescribed more during the pandemic than before.
‘We have to truly understand the needs of dementia patients rather than using a chemical cosh to suppress their illness.’