Published on:

Are too many nursing home patients receiving psychiatric drugs?

dementia patient.jpgIf you ask government inspectors, the answer is a resounding— YES.  

Today, physciatric drugs– and anti-psychotic drugs in particular– are prescribed to an astounding 14% of all nursing home patients.  The bulk of the psychiatric drugs are administered to patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s in order to calm their potentially aggressive behaviors.

Despite the prevalence of this practice, anti-psychotic drugs such as AstraZeneca’s Seroquel and Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa have been associated with an increased mortality rate in seniors.  Other documented side-effects include: elevated blood sugar levels, increased cholesterol and weight gain.

Even with their dangers, doctors can legally prescribe anti-psychotic medications for off label use.  What is not legal, however, is for drug companies to actively promote the off label uses of their drugs when they have not been cleared by the FDA.

This controversial— but widespread issue– took front and center when an inspector from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told a Senate Committee on Aging about how widespread the practice of prescribing psychiatric drugs for off label use has become in the nursing home industry.

As a solution to this prevalent issues, HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson suggested that Medicare should stop reimbursing nursing homes for expenses related to inappropriate off-drug use.  Further, if nursing homes continue the dangerous practice, Levinson suggested that the offending facilities get removed from the Medicare program altogether.

As a lawyer who has seen how these powerful psychiatric drugs can adversely impact nursing home patients, I urge lawmakers to consider Mr. Levinson’s proposal.  In addition, I would hope that the FDA take the regulation of this class of drugs one step further and simply ban the practice of prescribing anti-psychotic medications for dementia patients.

Read more about this topic in the Washington Post article “Gov’t inspector says penalties needed to curb use of psychiatric drugs in nursing homes” here.

Related Nursing Homes Abuse Blog Entries:

Government Continues To Pay For Nursing Home Patients To Receive Unnecessary Anti-psychotic Medications

Pile On The Medication

Nursing Home Employees Plead ‘Not Guilty’ To Charges Related To The Intentional Chemical-Sedation Of 22 Elderly Residents

Half Of Nursing Home Residents Wrongly Drugged

Client Reviews

  • Having worked in the medical field, I appreciated the way that Mr. Rosenfeld and his staff approached my family’s situation. The combination of medical knowledge and legal expertise was indeed the winning combination for our case.
  • While nothing can change the way our mother was treated at a nursing facility, I do feel a sense of vindication that the facility was forced to pay for their treatment. I am certain that they would never have done had my attorneys not held their feet to the fire.
  • I was very nervous about initiating a claim against my mother’s nursing facility, but Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers took care of everything from getting the medical records to going to court. I felt like I had real advocates on my side. That meant a lot to me.
  • After a horrific episode at a nursing home, my sister and I spoke to a number of law firms. No one took the time to answer our questions and explain the legal process like Mr. Rosenfeld. He did a tremendous job on our case and I can see why he’s earned the praise he has from clients and peers.
  • I liked the fact that I could call the office and ask questions about the legal process at anytime. I could tell that my case was in good hands. I think that this was reflected in my father’s settlement was more than I anticipated the case ever being worth.