More than 179,000 United States nursing home residents are being given antipsychotic medications each week without justification, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report. These residents do not have psychiatric diagnoses that would warrant the use of these drugs, but rather have Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related illnesses. The Human Rights Watch investigation revealed that the antipsychotic pill, Nuedexta, was just one of the drugs being misused in nursing homes. The manufacturers of these drugs benefit from the drugs’ over-prescriptions at the expense of elderly patients, particularly those suffering from dementia.
The Dangers of Misusing Antipsychotic Drugs
Antipsychotic drugs can have dangerous, unintended consequences for those who do not need them. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved antipsychotic drugs for the treatment of dementia, an illness for which there is no approved drug. The FDA has warned that these drugs induce nervous system problems, cause low blood pressure, high blood sugar, blood clots, and double the risk of fatality for elderly patients suffering from dementia.
Certain family members were not informed about the dangers associated with the drugs, while others felt that they had to consent to the drug’s administration to avoid eliciting the eviction of their loved ones from the nursing homes. Many family members reported seeing improvements in their loved ones’ health and behavior after being taken off the antipsychotic drugs, however they also noted the difficulty of persuading staff to stop administering the drugs.
One daughter recounted that while her mother was on antipsychotic medication for two years, she was incoherent, constantly sleeping, and was unable to remember anything. She thought her mother’s condition was irreversible until she convinced staff to stop administering the antipsychotic medication. Her mother’s condition then improved. She was able to walk, talk, and regain aspects of her personality that had diminished.
Who Is to Blame?
Human Rights Watch researchers visited 109 facilities in six states and interviewed 323 people from October 2016 to March 2017, finding widespread misuse of antipsychotic drugs. Between 2014 and 2017, there were more than 7,000 citations issued to facilities for violations related to antipsychotic medications.
Staff admitted to administering the drugs without having appropriate diagnoses or informed consent. Researchers say that the drugs were administered to help overwhelmed staff deal with their workload by suppressing patient behaviors through chemical restraint rather than through more effective activities such as exercise, music therapy, and pet therapy.
The makers of Nuedexta made millions of dollars from the misuse of their drug. However, the Human Rights Watch blames the government for these violations. The government is required to protect the rights of vulnerable nursing home residents under the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 and has failed to do so in the past. However, recent efforts by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have reportedly reduced the use of antipsychotic drugs by 35 percent. A separate Government Accountability Office investigation has prompted suggestions for improvement, including the clarification of state reporting requirements for critical incidents.
Delaware County Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers at McCann & Wall, LLC Protect the Rights of Nursing Home ResidentsIf you know or suspect that your loved one is being prescribed medications they do not need, contact the Delaware County nursing home abuse lawyers at McCann & Wall, LLC. Contact us online or call us at 215-569-8488 for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, Delaware County, and Chester County.