News regarding the dangers of nursing home antipsychotic drug use continues to be made across the country. Yesterday, Medical Page Today reported on two high-ranking United States Senators that have begun asking more questions about the prevalence of this drug use in long-term care facilities and the dangers it poses. Over the past several months our Illinois nursing home lawyers have been spreading the word about the dangers of this unauthorized use of antipsychotic drugs on unsuspecting residents.
It is encouraging to learn about the letter sent by a bipartisan pair of lawmakers-Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin-urging the Center to Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) director to examine more closely the overuse of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes. This latest letter is a follow-up to the same Senators instigation of a federal report from the Department of Health & Human Services Office of the Inspector General (OIG) which found widespread problems with use of these medications in long-term facilities.
The main issue is that at least eight different drugs used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are often given to residents who have not been diagnosed with those conditions. Some of those drugs include Clozaril, Abilify, and Seroquel. These drugs are known as “atypical antipsychotics,” and they are specifically not supposed to be used to treat things like dementia. They actually are required to carry a black box warning that explains how elderly patients who take these drugs may have an increased risk of death. This was discovered using specific studies comparing the health of dementia patients who took a placebo with those who took one of these drugs. Clearly with information like that, all nursing home professionals who continue to treat residents with atypical antipsychotics are engaging in nursing home neglect.
The OIG report found that a staggering 14% of all nursing home residents had Medicare claims filed on their behalf for these antipsychotic drugs. Of those total claims, 88% of the time they were for off-labels uses. That means that the vast majority of nursing home residents who receive these drugs are being given them for reasons for which they have not approved.
It seems that many actors may share the blame in these distorted statistics which indicate that many nursing home residents are placed at unnecessary risk of harm. Besides the nursing home doctors that erroneously prescribe these medications, the companies which make these antipsychotic drugs have been found liable for specifically pushing use of these drugs for dangerous reasons. For example, in 2009 the drug maker Eli Lilly pled guilty to illegally marketing the drug Zyprexa for use by nursing home residents with dementia. They ultimately paid $1.4 billion to the federal government as a result of the suit.
Our Illinois nursing home attorneys at Levin & Perconti know that this systematic problem has affected thousands and thousands of residents in our area alone. We encourage all those who suspect that their loved one may have received substandard care-such as through use of chemical restraints like these drugs-to visit our office and share you story.
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