After analyzing data from Medicare claims and nursing homes’ medication paperwork from 2007, officials have established that many nursing home patients are receiving anti-psychotic medications to treat medical conditions for which the drugs were never intended to be used.
The disturbing conclusions about the unnecessary medicating of nursing home patients was recently made public in a 48-page report released by the Office of the Inspector General. The report paints a picture of nursing homes broadly using anti-psychotic drugs to treat conditions such as dementia– a condition for which these drugs have not been approved– and have conclusively established to pose additional dangers to patients.
Commonly prescribed anti-psychotic drugs such as: Risperdal, Zyprexia and Seroquel have been used by the nursing home industry as a form of chemical restraint for patients with dementia in an attempt to calm their behaviors and make them easier to care for. The nature of drugs may cause rapid physical and psychological decline in many of these patients as well.
The government report concluded that in most circumstances (88% of the cases) not only were the drugs not intended to treat patients with dementia, but the drugs carried a severe warning of health risks— including death— for dementia patients who were taking these medications– as these medications do nothing to treat the underlying condition.
The pervasive use of anti-psychotic drugs in nursing homes was so concerning to the officials at OIG who initiated the study that they devised suggestions for CMS (Medicare) to implement to help reduce the rate of unnecessary drug use by:
- Creating a systemic process to analyze the use of anti-psychotic medications in individual nursing homes
- Hold nursing homes accountable when medications are wrongfully administered
- Changing the nursing home survey and certification process to address use of anti-psychotic medication
- Educate facilities on the proper uses for these medications
Given the widespread use of off-label use of anti-psychotic medications in nursing homes, I certainly support the suggestions made by the OIG.
Additionally, I believe it is important for families to insist upon seeing the list of their loved ones medications to see if they are being improperly medicated. As more families become aware of the prevalence of this type of chemical sedation, nursing homes may be forced to provide the necessary care to patients as opposed to just dispensing unnecessary drugs.
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