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New Report Reinforces Danger of Antipsychotic Drugs to Treat Dementia

The Chicago nursing home attorneys at our firm have been closely following the recent burst in scholarship on the effect that antipsychotic drugs have on the patients who receive them. We have worked with many clients and their families following concerns about mistreatment at local facilities where these drugs were doled out in massive quantities. Chemical restraints remain a common problem at local nursing homes. This refers to the excessive use of medication on residents with the main purpose of making it easier for the employees to handle residents. Of course this comes at a huge cost, taking away the vitality, character, personality, and independence of these residents. Not only that but these medications pose significant health risks that many medical professionals in these facilities continue to ignore.

Specifically, new research continues to pour in on the dangers posed to patients who were prescribed atypical antipsychotic drugs for “off-label” purposes. The “atypical” refers to the second generation of this medication. “Off label” refers to the use of the medication to treat things which were not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. These drugs are frequently used to treat dementia patients in nursing homes, even in the face of growing evidence that it leads to a risk of death.

As summarized this week in Health News, a new analysis of more than 150 trials involving these drugs showed that there was often a higher chance of these medications causing problems than actually improving the condition. The doctor who lead the team analyzing the trials explained that the beneficial outcomes for all patents-including those with dementia-were smaller than they expected. For many conditions analyzed, the medications came with virtually no positive effect, but they retained the negative risks. The lead doctor noted that this latest effort was the largest of its kind. She hoped that the results would lead many medical professionals-including those working in nursing homes-to reconsider the way they prescribe atypical antipsychotic drugs.

Our Illinois nursing home lawyers are not surprised by this data, as many families have explained the side-effects associated with these drugs. It remains shocking that so many medical professionals continue to prescribe these medications for uses not approved by the FDA. Atypical antipsychotics are approved by the FDA under certain circumstances only to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. In the last few years, however, medical professionals have begun using the drugs in an effort to treat a wide variety of conditions such as anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, dementia, posttraumatic stress, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Treatment of off-label conditions is now the most common reason that these drugs are prescribed. In fact, new information has emerged about illegal marketing efforts by the makers of these drugs. The large companies may have used underhanded tactics to get doctors to use the medication for these off-label purposes.

It is important for family members to be extra vigilant about the drugs prescribed to their loved ones in nursing homes. The Chicago nursing home neglect attorneys at our firm know that without close observation, it is possible for seniors to essentially lose their freedom by being given non-essential medications that make it difficult for them to interact with the world around them.

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