As awareness continues to grow about the rampant use of antipsychotic medication in nursing homes, more and more advocates are stepping up and demanding that federal officials take action to protect our seniors. This comes as welcome news to our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers who have long-known about the problems of chemical restraints. Hopefully with each added voice, officials are pushed closer to doing a wide range of things in their power to limit the misuse, protect seniors, and ultimately limit instances of harmful nursing home abuse and mistreatment.
An Associated Press story this week explained how government investigators recently called on Medicare officials to do more to curb the unnecessary use of powerful antipsychotic drugs. As we have repeatedly reported, this practice is particularly troubling considering that dementia patients receive antipsychotic drugs at very high rates, even though research has found that use of the drugs among these patients comes with an increased risk of death. Doctors claim that the drugs pacify aggressive condition in these patients, but the drugs were actually designed only to help control hallucinations, delusions, and other conditions caused by schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
A recent report found that a startling 83% of nursing home antipsychotic drug misuse claims submitted to Medicare were for patients with dementia. In total 14% of every single nursing home resident in all homes throughout the country receive some form of antipsychotic medication. Clearly, doctors are handing out these drugs with startling frequency. It is therefore not surprising that many of the largest drug companies have recently paid billions of dollars in settlements after suits were filed alleging that they illegally marketed these drugs in an effort to get doctors to prescribe the medications for off-label purposes.
Recently a government inspector with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently told a Senate Committee on Aging that officials with Medicare can and should do more to punish the misuse of the drugs in the nursing home context. Medicare actually pays for most of this misuse, as patients who receive the chemical restraints disproportionately use Medicare to provide for their long-term care. The inspector suggested that facilities that inappropriately prescribe these drugs be penalized. During his testimony, the Health and Human Services investigator stated that it would be appropriate for these facilities to be forced to pay for the medication themselves. Repeated abuse of these drugs was also suggested as a reason for the worst facilities to be denied the ability to participate in the Medicaid program altogether.
Unfortunately, our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers know that spurring actual changes at many facilities is often require hitting the facility where it matters to them: their pocketbooks. Not only it is egregious for these homes to put the lives and quality of life of their residents on the line, but it is appalling that the taxpayers are the ones that usually foot the bill for these dangerous practices. At the very least it is beneficial for Medicare to take the steps within its power, as recommended the inspector, to financially punish facilities that inappropriately use these medications.
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