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Government Accountability Office Testifies About Abuse of Prescription Drugs in Nursing Homes

Each Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer at our firm learned quickly that chemical restraints constituted one of the most widespread forms of systematic nursing home neglect. These include the over-prescription of medication to those in these homes in order to make them easier to control. The drugs effective make many seniors sluggish, unaware of their surroundings, and generally take the vitality out of their lives. Many local families have experienced the effect of this mistreatment when they soon discover that their loved one seems “different” since arriving at these homes in ways that are often hard to describe. In many cases they appear to have lost their personality, interest in previously favorite activities, and have trouble interacting with the world around them.

This year the overuse of many prescription drugs, particularly among the elderly in nursing homes, caught the attention of Congress. Federal policymakers voiced concerns that not only was the overuse of these drugs in nursing homes placing the lives of residents at risks and decreasing the quality of their existence, but it was also draining precious Medicare resources. To help get a grasp on the problem, several lawmakers have been holding hearing on the issue. One U.S. Senate subcommittee recently held another meeting earlier this month to discuss the effect that the misuse of certain prescription drugs had on Medicare Part D-this is the part of the federal program that subsidizes the costs of prescription drugs to Medicare beneficiaries.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) sent a representative to testify earlier last week about the agency’s investigation into abuse and fraud in the system. They reported that prescription drug abuse is not only a serious health problem, but it is growing. Many Americans fail to appreciate the significance and scope of this problem. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently explained, drug overdoses-including prescription overdoses amongst seniors-was the seconding leading cause of unintentional death, only behind vehicle accidents.

Overall, the office conducted an investigation which found that roughly 1.8% of Medicare Part D beneficiaries received prescriptions for 12 classes of frequently abused drugs, representing $148 million in annual drug costs. This particularly testimony in question examined also examined abuse outside of the nursing home context, with many Medicare participants participating in “doctor shopping” to acquire large amounts of medications such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and other frequently abused medications. The GAO made various suggestions about changes that could be made to the system to prevent this type of abuse, save Medicare funds, and ultimately save the lives of those harmed by these medications.

This latest hearing is a reminder of the danger of many prescription drugs and the need to carefully monitor all uses. Our Chicago nursing home neglects lawyers know that this is certainly true in the assisted-living context, where many elderly patients receive vast quantities of drugs-often antipsychotics-that have serious side effects. It is important for those seniors and their family members not to be afraid to question the use of each drug to ensure that it is necessary and will not come with side unwanted side effects that significantly diminishes the life of the senior. Overuse of these drugs is a form of nursing home abuse that needs to be stopped whenever possible.

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