Are Anti-Psychotic Drugs Being Over-Prescribed in Nursing Homes?

The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that physicians have been widely prescribing antipsychotic medications to people in nursing homes for off-label conditions such as dementia.

The APA said that the findings emphasize the fact that antipsychotics are often used when behavioral treatments would be more effective.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General reviewed Medicare claims in people ages 65 and older living in nursing homes in 2007, and found that 51% of claims involved errors, and that 83% of all Medicare claims for antipsychotics were prescribed for off-label conditions, namely dementia.

Why does America have such a high rate of overprescribing antipsychotics? The HHS Inspector Daniel Levinson argued in the report that one of the problems of overprescribing antipsychotics was the marketing tactics used by pharmaceutical companies.

Another problem is the scarcity of psychologists trained to provide behavioral interventions to nursing home residents. While many people in nursing homes are taking too many antipsychotics, nursing home physicians are often responding to a lack of options.

While many nursing home administrators are savvy in their mental health knowledge and would prefer to offer their residents behavioral treatments, unfortunately when residents are agitated or unruly, physicians will often turn to antipsychotic medications because they feel they have a lack of options, especially in overcrowded and understaffed nursing homes.

The misuse of antipsychotic drugs is a national problem, and it raises the question, when does a lack of options cross the line into abuse? Unfortunately, the misuse of antipsychotic drugs as chemical restraints is one of the biggest and most preventable problems plaguing our nation’s nursing homes.

Antipsychotic drugs are meant for people who have a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. They carry the FDA’s black box warning that says they are not intended for older or frail people or patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. In the elderly, antipsychotics can trigger anxiety, confusion, disorientation, agitation, and even death.

“They can dull a patient’s memory, sap their personalities and crush their spirits,” according to a report from the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.

Was your loved one given antipsychotics for an off-label use?

Was your loved one given antipsychotics for an off-label use, or were they a victim of nursing home abuse? To learn more about filing a claim, please call Lenahan Law Firm today. In a free consultation, we would be glad to answer your questions and explain all of your legal options.

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