Antipsychotics in Nursing Homes Still A Worry

This blog has in the past noted the trend of using off-label antipsychotic drugs to control nursing home residents. Such use of these drugs in nursing homes as "chemical restraints" can be seen as abuse. In fact, in 2012, federal regulators announced a nationwide initiative to reduce the use of off-label antipsychotic drugs, as this story in the Hartford Courant notes.

Connecticut has in recent years been a leader in administering antipsychotics to nursing home residents. As the Courant article points out, more than half of Connecticut’s nursing homes (128 out of 233) were prescribing powerful antipsychotic drugs (without the required clinical diagnosis) at rates exceeding the national average.

The article is based on newly disclosed federal data. In one Manchester nursing home, regulators found that antipsychotic drugs were given to 68 percent of its patients, without a diagnosis. (A representative of the home disputed that claim.) That was the highest rate in the state — Connecticut’s average is 26 percent.

For comparison, nationwide, nearly 40 percent of nursing home residents with dementia were receiving the powerful drugs off-label. A 2011 report by the U.S. Inspector General found that 83 percent of Medicare claims for antipsychotic drugs for nursing home residents were off-label.

While antipsychotic drugs are necessary for those with serious mental problems such as schizophrenia, they can cause potentially fatal side effects in elderly patients, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Also, these drugs can make seniors confused, disoriented, and even catatonic. In 2007, an FDA researcher claimed up to 15,000 elders died yearly in nursing homes from the off-label use of antipsychotics.

If you suspect that a friend or family member may have been harmed as a direct or indirect result of off-label antipsychotic chemical restraints, contact Sokolove Law today.

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