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Senators Question Use Of Antipsychotic Drugs In Nursing Homes

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The dangerous problem of needlessly dosing the elderly with antipsychotics is rising, with these drugs sometimes given for seemingly pointless reasons. Sometimes, these drugs appear to be linked to falls and other accidents in the elderly, including death.

NewsInferno recently wrote that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said the overuse of atypical antipsychotics could be due, in part, to drug makers hyping some antipsychotics for off-label uses, going so far as to pay physician kickbacks.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights International just wrote that two key U.S. Senators are asking the CMS to review the issue of over-prescribing atypical antipsychotics to nursing home residents. Eight atypical antipsychotics are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of schizophrenia and/or bipolar disorder, said the Citizens Commission on Human Rights; however, the drugs are not approved by the FDA for dementia treatment and do contain an FDA warning—a black box, the agency’s most stringent—that use of these medications in elderly populations can put this demographic at risk for diabetes, movement disorders that can become permanent, pneumonia, stroke, weight gain, and sudden cardiac death.

Regardless, atypical antipsychotics continue to be used as a sort of chemical restraint to control undesirable behaviors linked to dementia, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International explained. NewsInferno pointed out that these drugs are known to be used to control the agitation, aggression, and hallucinations sometimes seen in patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Senators Charles Grassley (Republican-Iowa) and Herb Kohl (Democrat-Wisconsin) are now asking CMS administrator Donald Berwick, MD, to review the problem with antipsychotic overuse in nursing homes, said the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International. This is the second letter sent by the senators since May, after a report detailing the overuse of these drugs in the the elderly was issued by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

The OIG report revealed that 14 percent of all nursing homes residents with Medicare benefits also had claims for antipsychotics, while 88 percent of atypical antipsychotics prescribed off-label were prescribed for dementia, noted the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International.

In 2008, a study revealed that 91 percent of all prescriptions for atypical antipsychotics involved situations in which proof of efficacy was not clear. Meanwhile, in 2009, Elli Lilly pled guilty and paid $1.4 billion to the federal government over allegations it targeted physicians who worked in facilities with elder residents to prescribe Zyprexa (olanzapine) off-label to dementia patients.

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