Study finds antipsychotics abused in nursing homes

In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeled antipsychotic drugs with the most stringent warning that the government drug regulator could issue – the drugs could cause death in patients with dementia. According to a new government report, nursing homes have turned a blind eye to that FDA warning.

Two years after the FDA warning, the government’s Health and Human Services engineered a study of nursing home abuse. It looked into how much and how often antipsychotic drugs were given to dementia patients.

The agency found that long-term care facilities issued 300,000 doses of drugs like Risperdal, Seroquel and Zyprexa in just six months time to dementia victims. In more than half the cases, the doses were considered excessive.

The recent report expressed serious concern that nursing homes, especially those that had antipsychotics paid for by Medicaid, were given “financial incentives” to overuse the drugs on purpose. It found that when a long-term care facility had Medicaid funding for drugs, it was 88 percent more likely to use antipsychotics to drug dementia patients.

University of Wisconsin physician, Dr. David Zimmerman, said the pills are most likely used as chemical restraints. Dr. Kenneth Brubaker, who works as an advocate for medical directors of nursing homes, agrees antipsychotics are overused. Brubaker said drugs are the “shortcut” that understaffed facilities use to cope with high turnover rates and poor training.

One woman, whose dementia-affected father died within a month of being placed in a nursing home, sued the facility for unnecessarily giving her father antipsychotics. When she won the case, she took the proceeds and established a nursing scholarship in her father’s name.

Source: CBS News, “Gov’t finds nursing homes misuse antipsychotics,” Armen Keteyian, 5/9/2011

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