Study Claims Nursing Home Residents in Illinois and Elsewhere Are Often Prescribed Dangerous Anti-Psychotic Medications Despite FDA Black Box Warning

A study conducted at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester claims more than one-fifth of nursing home residents across the nation are prescribed at least one anti-psychotic drug. A research letter recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association also alleges most of the anti-psychotic prescriptions written for skilled nursing facility patients are off-label, or not for an approved use. According to the letter, such drugs provide “marginal clinical benefits and serious adverse effects, including death,” for long-term care facility patients.

As part of the research study, Becky A. Briesacher, PhD and her colleagues analyzed prescription data for more than 1.4 million nursing home residents included in a database compiled by the long-term care pharmacy Omnicare between 2009 and 2010. Omnicare reportedly provides prescription medications to about half of all skilled nursing facility residents in the United States. Researchers found that about 22 percent of nursing home patients received at least one anti-psychotic drug. In addition, more than 68 percent of patients were administered one of three atypical anti-psychotic medications, quetiapine fumarate, risperidone, and olanzapine. Such drugs are classified primarily for use in individuals who suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Researchers also reportedly examined a subset of more than half a million nursing home residents who received at least 90 days of continuous medical observation. Patients given atypical anti-psychotic prescriptions were allegedly treated with the drugs for at least 70 days. Those who were administered conventional medications like haloperidol or chlorpromazine were purportedly only treated for 30 to 77 days. According to researchers, 92.5 percent of patients in the subset were prescribed more than one anti-psychotic drug.

The study purportedly found that anti-psychotics were most widely prescribed to nursing home residents living in South Central states. Patients residing in Western states were allegedly the least likely to receive an anti-psychotic medication. Researchers reportedly believe the wide variation between the two regions, 28.1 percent and 17.2 percent respectively, demonstrates that the medications are not being prescribed to skilled nursing facility patients using an evidence-based approach.

In 2005, the nation’s Food and Drug Administration issued a black box warning which stated the use of anti-psychotic medications in patients who suffer from a dementia disorder is associated with an increased mortality rate. In some nursing homes, residents reportedly receive such medications because employees have difficulty dealing with the behavioral symptoms that can accompany dementia. No matter what behavior issues exist, better alternatives should be utilized.

The abuse or neglect of skilled nursing facility residents is not always easy to identify. It is unacceptable for a nursing home patient to receive an inappropriate or potentially dangerous prescription drug in order to make caring for them easier on untrained or an insufficient number of employees. In general, the over-medication of residents is also a recipe for abuse. If you believe someone you love was the victim of skilled nursing facility abuse or neglect, you should discuss your concerns with a committed lawyer.

If your elderly or disabled loved one was the victim of abuse or neglect at a nursing home in Illinois, give the experienced attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. a call at (312) 475-9596. Our hardworking Chicago skilled nursing facility abuse and neglect lawyers are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week to help you protect the rights of your senior friends and family members. For a free consultation with a knowledgeable attorney, please contact Abels & Annes, P.C. through the law firm’s website.

More Blogs:

Late Medicaid Payments Allegedly Place Illinois Nursing Home Residents at Risk, Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog, February 5, 2013
Study Suggests Nursing Homes that Successfully Coordinate With Other Medical Providers Reduce Hospitalization Rates, Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog, February 3, 2013
Additional Resources:

Antipsychotics Given Often in Nursing Homes, by Nancy Walsh, MedPage Today


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