Resident Death and Antipsychotic Drug Violations in Nursing Homes

Our Washington D.C. Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys recently discussed the topic of chemical restraints in a blog, and the unnecessary use of antipsychotics in nursing homes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that around 15,000 nursing home deaths occur every year from the off-label use of antipsychotic medications that are unapproved by the FDA.

Center for Medicare Advocacy Senior Policy Attorney Toby Edelman, recently released a statement in reaction to a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing, claiming that nursing home residents die every day from the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications given to residents who have no diagnosis of psychosis. Edelman claims that nursing home facilities are violating the Controlled Substances Act and the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law, by failing to provide the residents with proper medical attention, and physicians who are available to treat them 24 hrs a day.

According to the statement, under the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law, every resident must be under the care of a physician, and each nursing home must provide a physician for medical care in case of an emergency, with another physician on-call. Edelman claims that nursing homes and long-term care pharmacies have long been relying on the practice of “chart orders,” for medications, where nurses assess the nursing home resident’s changed condition, and contact the physician—who then prescribes pain medication recommendations.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has reportedly begun to enforce the rules and policy of the Controlled Substances Act, requiring physicians to write and sign prescriptions, sending nursing home and nursing home pharmacy industries into a frenzy, claiming that without these practices, residents will not receive the pain medication they need.

In April of 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued “black box” warnings against prescribing antipsychotic drugs with dementia patients, as the drugs were reportedly causing an increase in deaths. The FDA then extended its “black box” warning to conventional antipsychotic drugs, advising health care professionals that antipsychotics are not indicated for the treatment of dementia related psychosis—a problem plaguing many elderly residents in nursing homes.

Edelman cites that the government reported in the fourth quarter of 2009 that 26.1% of the nation’s nursing home residents, or 354,904 people, received antipsychotic drugs. Studies reportedly confirm that 25-30% of nursing home residents are given antipsychotic drugs across the country, for off-label reasons that are not approved by the FDA—causing resident injury and wrongful death.

Edelman argues that if a nursing home resident who is experiencing pain is properly supervised by a physician, a right that the resident is legally entitled to, then the physician would prescribe the appropriate treatments for quality care. The residents would then have access to the safety and healthcare that they deserve, with the properly prescribed medication and dosage—protecting them from nursing home negligence, or chemical restraint.

In Maryland or the Washington D.C. area, our nursing home attorneys at Lebowitz and Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers represent victims nursing home abuse and negligence. Contact us today for a free consultation.

3 Nursing Home Patients Killed by Chemical Restraints, ABC News, January 5, 2010
The War on Drugs Meets the War on Pain: Nursing Home Residents Caught in the Crossfire, Statement of the Center for Medicare and California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, March 24, 2010

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