Congressional Committee Leader Targets Centers for Medicare & Medicaid For Slow Changes of Antipsychotic Drug Use in Nursing Homes
Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) is the author of a January 22, 2019 letter sent to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) administrator, Seema Verma. In the letter, the congressional committee leader overseeing Medicare says he wants to see a closer look at how nursing homes are really using antipsychotics and is also asking for greater detail on how skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and Medicare plans alike are actively changing the way the drugs are being used. Although antipsychotic drug overuse, theft, and abuse in nursing homes have been long-time issues in the U.S., CMS’s 2019 trend update on the problem shows nursing homes are making progress in decreasing antipsychotic prescribing.
“CMS is tracking the progress of the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes by reviewing publicly reported measures. The official measure of the Partnership is the percentage of long-stay nursing home residents who receive antipsychotic medication, excluding residents diagnosed with schizophrenia, Huntington’s disease, or Tourette’s syndrome. In the fourth quarter of 2011, 23.9 percent of residents received an antipsychotic medication; since then there has been a decrease of 38.9 percent to a national prevalence of 14.6 percent in the second quarter of 2018. Success varies by state and CMS region; some states and regions have a reduction greater than 40 percent.”
Antipsychotic drugs are sometimes given to patients living in SNFs to calm behaviors associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. But staff too often seek the medications to make patients easier to handle. These drugs can be dangerous when used without the patient’s physician or family’s knowledge or consent, a haphazard tactic given that the mismanagement and misuse of these drugs have been known to cause sudden death. This practice, also known as chemical restraint, is not new. Since at least the mid-80s, consumer interest groups have pushed to curtail the use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing home residents with dementia.
The Representative expressed these sentiments in his letter, “Unfortunately, CMS’ data are still extremely disappointing, showing that progress reducing inappropriate use of antipsychotics in nursing homes has slowed. Moreover, I am concerned that the ‘improvement’ is not the result of changed prescribing behavior but, instead, stems from some nursing homes falsifying psychosis diagnoses, making incidence of this contra-indicated prescribing appear improved when it is, in fact, not.”
We encourage our blog followers to read Rep. Neal’s full letter here.
Levin & Perconti: Attorneys for Victims of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
If someone you love is being given, or has been given, antipsychotic drugs and has been injured as a result, please contact the Chicago nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys of Levin & Perconti. For nearly three decades we have successfully defended the rights of the elderly against nursing homes that feel drugging a resident to make their job easier is allowed.
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