A pilot program in Fredericton that phased out antipsychotic drugs given to seniors in nursing homes is now being expanded across the province.

The program was studied over 12 months, and has shown seniors respond better to treatments without drugs.

York Care Centre in Fredericton is the first of its kind to slowly cut back on antipsychotic drugs among residents. The drugs are normally used to treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, but are given to seniors to keep them calm.

“We had residents who hadn't fed themselves in a while that were back feeding themselves. Residents who had been sitting somewhat lethargic around the units that were up dancing when they heard music,” says CEO of York Care Centre, Kevin Harter.

The program began with a dozen patients at York Care Centre, and has expanded to fifteen nursing homes across New Brunswick. It is soon being introduced in 43 other nursing homes in the province.

“This is the one initiative that ticks all of the boxes,” says Julie Weir of the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes. “It improves quality of life for the residents and quality of experience for their family members and their relationship, it's fiscally responsible and it's the right thing to do.”

The New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes will be releasing their exact findings on the success of the antipsychotic drug program next week, but they say the program is saving the government millions in health care.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown