On Wednesday, November 30, 2011, the United States Senate held important hearings on the issue of elderly nursing home residents being improperly prescribed antipsychotics for dementia. According to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, almost 15% of all nursing home residents in the United States are currently taking antipsychotic medications, such as Seroquel and Zyprexa.
Typically, physicians prescribe antipsychotics for people suffering hallucinations, delusions, and other abnormal behavior associated with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. However, in the nursing home setting, many physicians prescribe our loved ones antipsychotics simply to reduce agitation and aggressive behavior, which can be associated with dementia. The scary issue with so many seniors taking antipsychotics is that the FDA has never approved their efficacy for treating dementia. In fact, many antipsychotic medications’ labels specifically warn against using those medications to treat dementia. Moreover, clinical research has revealed that drugs like Seroquel and Zyprexa can result in increased blood glucose or cholesterol levels, thereby causing diabetes or coronary artery disease.
It is not uncommon for physicians to use a medication “off-label,” which means prescribing it for a purpose that the FDA has not approved. However, in the case of antipsychotics, several drug manufacturers have recently paid substantial fines for specifically marketing antipsychotic drugs to physicians, and encouraging their off-label use. Such marketing tactics are illegal. For example, one pharmaceutical manufacturer, Eli Lilly & Co., paid over $1,400,000,000.00 in federal fines, after its representatives encouraged to physicians to prescribe dementia patients 5mg of its product, so as to promote a good night’s sleep.
Additionally, federal and state nursing home regulations prohibit nursing home residents from being unnecessarily restrained. Those regulations specifically state that a person can be restrained either physically (for example, via bed rails or wrist restraints) or chemically. The over-prescribing of antipsychotics raises the issue of whether the people charged with tending to our seniors would simply prefer to prescribe medication, and hope that patients’ problematic behavior stops, rather than treating the underlying medical and psychiatric issues head-on. Another pharmaceutical company paid $600,000,000.00 for improperly promoting antipsychotics for dementia patients.
When testifying before the Senate earlier this week, Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General, Daniel Levinson, recommended that Medicare force nursing homes to pay for drugs that have prescribed inappropriately. Mr. Levinson also suggested that Medicare potentially bar nursing homes that don’t use antipsychotics appropriately.
The over-prescribing of medications to nursing home residents is a practice that must stop now. It does not improve nursing home residents’ quality of life. In fact, clinical research has shown that it does the exact opposite, and places our loved ones at risk of injury or death.
If you suspect that you or a loved one has suffered from any form of nursing home malpractice, neglect, or abuse, please contact Kentucky nursing home abuse attorney, Seth Gladstein, for a free consultation. A Louisville, Kentucky attorney, Seth has the experience to help properly and thoroughly investigate a nursing home negligence, malpractice, or abuse claim, and determine whether you may possibly recover monetary damages. By calling, you can help make nursing home facilities safer for you, your loved ones, and other residents. Seth can be reached at (502) 855-4177, or toll-free at 800-991-0474. You may also email Seth at [email protected] right now.