The use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes

California nursing home patients can be affected by issues such as overcrowding, limited staffing and low budgets. However, family members of elderly patients housed in such facilities may want to pay special attention to the drugs administered to their loved ones, especially if dramatic changes in behavior, personality or condition are observed. Nursing home abuse can take many forms, and in some cases, antipsychotic drugs are incorrectly or illegally used to manage patient behavior.

Experts indicate that as many as 20 percent of nursing home patients receive antipsychotic drugs that are not necessary. Worse, these are often dangerous for those who are elderly. A combination of poor training, serious understaffing and pushy behavior by pharmaceutical companies marketing the drugs contributes to the problem. The wrong use of these products as chemical restraints is considered one of the most common issues resulting in harm to patients. It is also one of the most preventable sources of harm.

Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries were fined more than $2 billion in 2013 in connection with the aggressive tactics used in marketing antipsychotic and other drugs to nursing facilities. The entities were aware that the FDA had not approved these drugs as safe for elderly individuals in general. Also at issue in the case were kickbacks allegedly offered to pharmacies and doctors. According to a report by the inspector general of Health and Human Services, as many as one-third of Medicare patients receiving care in nursing homes have suffered preventable harm.

In cases involving the administration of antipsychotic drugs, informed consent is required by law. A loved one who becomes aware of the inappropriate administration of such a substance may want to discuss the implications with an attorney in order to determine how to best proceed in documenting and addressing the issue.

Source: AARP, “Drug Abuse: Antipsychotics in Nursing Homes“, Jan Goodwin, July 01, 2014

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