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Study Finds Nursing Homes in U.S. Overuse Drugs on Dementia Patients

Posted on May 12, 2011

A newly released report from the Health and Human Services (HHS) inspector general finds that anti-psychotic drugs were being over-prescribed unnecessarily at least 300,000 times between January and June 2007, in some cases leading to the death of a patient with dementia. CBS News reports the study found that 88 percent of the time the federal government through Medicare paid for the anti-psychotic drugs used by nursing homes. Why is that a problem? Drugs such as Seroquel, Risperdal, and Zyprexa were approved for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and not for the elderly suffering from dementia. In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration placed a black box warning notice alerting caregivers to a risk of increase in sudden death when used on the elderly suffering from dementia.

Senator Charles Grassley requested the Office of Inspector General (OIG) evaluate how often elderly nursing home residents were given atypical anti-psychotic drugs and what Medicare was paying for the off-label use for dementia. Medicare is supposed to be reimbursed only for medically accepted indications. The study found:

  • 14 percent of the elderly in nursing homes had Medicare claims for atypical anti-psychotic drugs amounting to $309 million.
  • 83 percent of Medicare claims for atypical anti-psychotic drugs in nursing homes were used off-label and 88 percent were used for the condition in the black box warning.
  • 51 percent of the drug claims were erroneous amounting to $116 million.
  • 22 percent of Medicare claims for atypical anti-psychotic drugs were not administered in accordance with Medicare and Medicaid Services standards.

The use of anti-psychotic drugs has been called a form of chemical restraint. HHS believes there may be kickback incentives between nursing homes and drug companies leading to the abuse of drugs in nursing homes, and everyone blames rapid turnover and the inadequate staff training as contributing to the problem.

If a loved one has been placed in a nursing home and experiences a sudden change in appearance and responsiveness, Farah & Farah encourages you to ask what type of drugs they are being given and how much before you ascertain whether the drugs are needed. If you find your loved one is being abused or neglected, we are always there to help with a complimentary consultation on your nursing home abuse questions. Contact our Florida nursing home abuse attorneys today.