Many of the most common forms of nursing home neglect are often those that fly under the radar. Blatant cases of abuse are easier for concerned friends and family members to identify-such as physical assaults by staff members, development of pressure sores, and lack of supervision resulting in falls. However, as our experienced Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers know well, the health of many residents are placed in risk of a daily basis due to more systematic forms of mistreatment.
One of those systematic risks has finally received more attention in the past few months-atypical antipsychotic drug prescriptions. This week we reported on the new lawsuit filed by a state attorney general targeted at the drug manufacturer who illegally marketed one of those drugs, Risperdal, for unsafe uses. According to a state press release, the Massachusetts Attorney General recently filed suit against the manufacturer-Ortho-McNeil-Janssen after uncovering evidence of the business’s promotion of the drug for elderly patients with dementia even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the medication for use with these residents.
However, it is not only the drug manufacturers who might need to be held responsible for the prescription of these drugs for dangerous uses. Doctors and other caregivers at these nursing homes should also have known the risks presented to residents. Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a comprehensive report explaining the danger of these drugs when given to elderly dementia patients in nursing homes.
The government investigation amazingly found that more than half of all Medicare claims for those atypical antipsychotic drugs were erroneously filed for improper uses. That would amount to nearly $240 million in wrongful Medicare filing each year for these drugs alone. These improper uses are specifically connected to “off label” uses which are essentially all of those other than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Medicare specifically requires that the drugs be used for “medically accepted indications’ for proper reimbursement. On top of that, Medicare rules have an added layer of protection which are supposed to ensure that nursing home resident drug regimes are free of unnecessary medications.
In fact, the same federal study found that nearly 14% of all elderly nursing home residents had at least one Medicare claim for these drugs. Of those 88% were specifically used for off-label purposes that were listed as a boxed warning by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The government indicated that the facilities’ failure to abide by clear program requirements may affect their ability to participate in Medicare.
Of course these Medicare issues are in addition to the serious healthcare risks that are associated with prescription of antipsychotic drugs for off-label uses for some residents. Medical studies have repeatedly shown that dementia patients have a significantly increased risk of death if they are given these drugs. It remains a clear breach of quality care for facilities to disregard those warning signs and give the medication anyway. Our Chicago nursing home attorneys firmly believe that a facility should be held legally responsible for all of their conduct that unnecessarily leads to an increased risk of injury and death for those vulnerable patients who depend on them.
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