Cause for alarm: Antipsychotic drugs for nursing home patients

When a loved one moves into a nursing home, the support of family and friends is particularly important. This is especially true when the nursing home patient has dementia and can’t adequately advocate on his or her own behalf.

A newly released report from my office — the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services — makes clear just how crucial it is for families to monitor and ask questions about medications that such patients receive. The report found that too often, elderly residents are prescribed antipsychotic drugs in ways that violate government standards for unnecessary drug use.

All Classes of Psychiatric Drugs Found Equally Dangerous for Nursing Home Residents

Conventional antipsychotics, antidepressants and benzodiazepines often administered to nursing home residents are no safer than atypical antipsychotics and may carry increased risks, according to an article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Psychotropic medications are often used to manage behavioral symptoms in seniors, particularly people with dementing illnesses, with up to two-thirds of dementia patients in nursing homes prescribed these medications. However, the effectiveness of these drugs in this indication is unclear and important safety concerns exist, especially related to antipsychotics.

Science Daily: Almost 1/3 of U.S. nursing home residents received antipsychotic drugs as chemical restraints

Science Daily is reporting that a study shows that newly admitted elderly patients to nursing homes have a higher rate of being prescribed antipsychotic drugs than in previous years. This study found that in 2007, almost one-third of U.S. nursing home residents received antipsychotic drugs. The FDA has issued a warning that there is a great risk of death among older adults with dementia who are taking these agents to control behavioral symptoms.

Rampant illegal psychiatric drugging of elderly/nursing home patients: 1,200 violations involving 2,900 patients

The Chicago Tribune’s unprecedented review of more than 40,000 state and federal inspection reports found that all types of nursing homes have been cited for improperly administering psychotropic drugs. The reports show thousands of elderly and disabled people have been affected, many of them drugged without their consent or without a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis that would justify treatment.