Federal Government Launches Antipsychotic Medication Initiative to Protect Nursing Home Residents

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid , has launched an initiative to promote reducing the use of antipsychotic medication in nursing home patients. The goal of the initiative is to spotlight the misuse of these medications in nursing homes, improve their monitoring and regulation, and promote non-drug treatments for certain conditions in nursing home residents. Nursing home staff often use antipsychotics to treat dementia symptoms, which may include agitation and aggressive behavior. Use of antipsychotic medications in dementia patients can have serious side effects, however, increasing their risk of complication and even death. The CMA’s initiative is the latest in a series of government efforts to curb antipsychotic use.

The CMS formally launched its initiative on Thursday, March 29 with a one-hour webcast entitled “Initiative to Improve Behavioral Health and Reduce the Use of Antipsychotic Medications in Nursing Homes [sic] Residents.” It describes the initiative as a “multidimensional approach” that incorporates research, public outreach, regulation, and training.

This Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog has previously reported on the issue of misuse of antipsychotic drugs in dementia patients. The primary purpose of these drugs is the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Nursing home staff sometimes use these drugs with dementia patients, which is fine for the minority of dementia sufferers who also demonstrate symptoms of schizophrenia or psychotic behavior. Antipsychotic medications may only worsen the isolation and communication problems for the remainder of the nursing home residents with dementia.

A report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 2011, based on an audit conducted in 2007, found that nursing homes often use antipsychotic medications in ways that are neither approved for Medicare coverage nor approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to the study, eighty-eight percent of the antipsychotic prescriptions issued that year were for nursing home residents with dementia. Overall, as many as 1 in 7 nursing home residents received an “atypical” antipsychotic drug. The Inspector General for HHS wrote that such uses “violate government standards for unnecessary drug use.”
HHS additionally found that some pharmaceutical companies have specifically marketed certain drugs to nursing homes. In 2009, the nation’s largest pharmacy dealing with nursing homes, Omnicare, agreed to pay $98 billion to the federal government and multiple state governments to settle allegations of receiving illegal kickbacks from drug manufacturers. A lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in early 2010 against Pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson accused the company of paying kickbacks to pharmacies, including Omnicare, to both purchase and promote its products to nursing homes. This included the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

Nursing home staffers and administrators owe a duty of care to their residents to provide for their medical needs, as well as some or all of their basic everyday needs. This includes a duty to provide adequate medical care and provide proper medication for residents’ needs. The use of antipsychotic medication for conditions like dementia puts nursing homes residents at unreasonable risk for health complications and death. The government has concluded that this use of such medications should be discouraged, and the growing scientific consensus seems to be that the risks of using these medications in this manner outweigh the rewards.

The Maryland nursing home lawyers at Lebowitz and Mzhen represent people who have been injured due to abuse or neglect by staff members. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Allegations of Illegal Pharmaceutical Marketing Rarely Lead to Penalties for Doctors, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer, October 25, 2011
Resident Death and Antipsychotic Drug Violations in Nursing Homes, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer, June 30, 2010
J&J Promoted Risperdal for Nursing Home Residents After FDA Warning, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer, March 18, 2010

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