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Nursing home patients and antipsychotic medications

| Sep 27, 2014 | Uncategorized

Nursing home facilities have an obligation to provide adequate care for the patients who reside there. However, nursing homes across the country have been administering antipsychotic medications to their residents inappropriately, causing significant physical and emotional trauma to patients and their families. According to the Center for Medicare Advocacy, unfortunate accounts of physician kickbacks, illegal marketing and health care fraud have surfaced, as organizations unlock the secrets behind the misuse of antipsychotic drugs on nursing home residents.

Antipsychotic medications

Although antipsychotic medications, such as Zyprexa and Risperdal are approved by the Federal Drug Administration to treat people who suffer from serious mental disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, physicians may legally prescribe them for other purposes. According to an AARP report, these medications are not approved for use in elderly patients and contain a black-box warning, instructing elderly people, as well as those diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, to avoid taking these drugs. Antipsychotic drugs can cause severe anxiety, strokes, weight gain, movement disorders, sedation, confusion, low blood pressure and even sudden cardiac arrest in these populations.

As part of the normal aging process, people’s systems change in the way they absorb, distribute, metabolize, and eliminate medication, according to a Medscape report. This requires physicians to use extreme caution when prescribing and administering medications to the elderly.

Inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs in the elderly

Despite the black-box warnings and other cautions against using antipsychotic drugs in elderly patients, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that 26 percent of patients residing in Medicaid or Medicare approved nursing homes were given antipsychotic medications in 2010. Many people are wondering why this form of patient abuse continues in care facilities across the nation.

Last year, a prominent drug company was accused of inappropriately and aggressively marketing antipsychotic drugs, as well as other medications, to nursing homes, according to an AARP report. At the time, they were fully aware that the medications were not FDA approved for use in the elderly. The company was also awarding kickbacks to physicians who prescribed their medications. Another drug company was accused of similar charges in 2009.

Understaffed nursing home facilities have also been named as a possible contributor to the misuse of antipsychotic drugs and nursing home neglect. A prominent University of California professor points out that for every seven patients there should be one attending certified nursing assistant; however, some nursing homes are forced to employ a ratio of one CNA to every 15 patients. This gives each CNA a heavy and sometimes overwhelming workload.

As families of mistreated nursing home resident’s band together in an attempt to change these abusive practices, many nursing homes are implementing new techniques in hopes of preventing these errors in the future.