Group Targets Antipsychotic Use Against Dementia Patients in U.S. Nursing Homes

A group that includes federal regulators, elder care advocates,’ families and professional organizations is trying to significantly reduce the use of unnecessary antipsychotics in nursing homes, which may expose elderly patients to serious health risks. 

Antipsychotics like Risperdal and Seroquel are often used in U.S. nursing homes as a form of chemical restraint to drug elderly patients into an easily controllable state. In many cases, these patients suffer from dementia, and studies have shown that not only do antipsychotics provide no benefits for dementia patients, but could increase their chance of dying.

On September 19, the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care announced that it has set a goal of reducing the use of antipsychotics in long-term care facilities by 25% before the end of 2015. The group hopes to see reductions of 30% by the end of 2016.

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Founded by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the group’s efforts have already seen a reduction in use of antipsychotics in nursing homes by 17.1% over the past 21 months. The group said that all 50 states showed some improvement over that period.

The announcement comes just days after a study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that more than half of all dementia patients in the U.S. appear to be receiving drugs that are not helping them.

Atypically antipsychotic medications have been identified often as a common form of chemical restraint, which is often considered a form of nursing home abuse.

The FDA has warned that use of atypical antipsychotic drugs among dementia patients may pose serious health risks, increasing the risk of death without providing any substantial benefit for the patient.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has previously accused Johnson & Johnson of engaging in kickback schemes designed to convince doctors to prescribe their antipsychotic medication Risperdal to elderly nursing home patients, knowing that the drug was being used abusively and potentially placing patients’ at risk of death.

In November 2013, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $2.2 billion to the federal government to settle its Risperdal illegal marketing claims.


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