Unnecessary Drugging in Nursing Homes Threatens Lives of Residents

As Maryland Nursing Home Injury Attorneys, we have been following the Chicago Tribune article published yesterday about an epidemic of unnecessary and dangerous drugging going on in nursing homes—causing nursing home injury and threatening the lives of elderly residents.

The report details that many vulnerable elderly residents in nursing homes are being given strong psychotropic drugs that they neither need or want—leaving them with dangerous side effects like tremors, severe lethargy, and a high possibility for falls or wrongful death.

This review of more than 40,000 federal and state inspection reports found that a wide variety of nursing homes ranging from high end facilities to run down centers, are in violation for improperly treating patients with psychotropic drugs. The violations included chemical restraint, unnecessary drug administering, dosages exceeding safety standards, and cases where dosages led to nursing home resident falls.

Since 2001, the Tribune identified 1,200 nursing home violations that involved psychotropic medications. These infractions reportedly affected 2,900 residents, although the actual statistics are likely to be far higher, as regulation inspections are only enforced once every 15 months.

Congress passed landmark laws protecting patients from unnecessary drugs in 1987—and since then, it is unlawful for facilities to give psychotropic drugs to patients without a doctor’s orders, patient’s consent and treatment justification.

The reports proved that 700 of the patients who were given antipsychotic drugs were not even diagnosed with psychosis—they were given drugs for no proper reason at all. State inspections report that instead of trying to work with residents, nursing home staff often resort to drugs as a solution for easier patient care. Doctors reportedly give drug consent over the phone without even seeing the patients. The study uncovered these Illinois cases:

• A 74-year old registered in a nursing home for less than a day, and was injected with a large amount of an antipsychotic drug. A few hours later he fell and suffered a fatal injury to the head.

• When a woman with Alzheimer’s became anxious and repeatedly asked to go to the bathroom, she was given injections of two antipsychotics and sent for psychiatric evaluation—where the psychiatrist reported that she had a urinary tract infection.

• After an Alzheimer’s patient on numerous psychotropics fell 8 times, the facility did not take any measures to prevent further falls. Her last fall resulted in a spinal fracture, and she died 11 days later.

According to the report, the frequently administered antipsychotic drugs can be very dangerous and carry the FDA’s highest advisory—“black-box warnings.” Side effects from these drugs include tics, severe lethargy, involuntary twitches and tremors, falls, and sudden death. The Tribune found that more than 200 residents who were administered with psychotropic drugs immediately fell—at times within hours of taking the medication.

Our attorneys at Lebowitz and Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers represent victims and their families who wish to recover compensation from a facility that has caused Maryland nursing home negligence and injury during their stay. Contact us today.

Compromised Care: Psychotropic Drugs Given to Nursing Home Patients Without Cause, Chicago Tribune, October 27, 2009
FDA Warns Antipsychotic Drugs May Be Risky For Elderly, The Journal of the American Medical Association, May 25, 2005

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, (FDA)

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