30 April 2012

Unnecessary Prescriptions in Nursing Homes

Story first appeared in USA Today.

Many nursing homes are typically using anti-psychotic drugs in residents who display agitation and combative behavior, but who should not be administered the powerful sedatives, a Boston Globe report based on government data has found.

The Globe based an investigation on data received 19 months after it filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S. government.

At one nursing home, the Ledgewood Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Beverly, Mass., the Globe found that 19% of residents who did not have a diagnosis for which the drugs are recommended were receiving them. The danger is that such patients are exposed to powerful side effects, the Globe reports. The drugs can leave people in a stupor, according to the Globe.

The Food and Drug Administration says that anti-psychotic drugs can cause dizziness, sudden drop in blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, blurred vision and urinary problems in people with dementia, the Globe reports.

At more than one in five U.S. nursing homes, anti-psychotic drugs are administered to people who do not have a condition that warrants their use.  San Diego Medical Malpractice Lawyers caution that the professional implications that misdiagnosis and unnecessary prescriptions will have on the employees and institution could be severe.

The news organization found that in 2010, about 185,000 nursing home residents in the United States received such drugs, although the administration of the drugs went against recommendations of federal nursing home regulators, the Globe reports. Many of the patients were suffering from Alzheimer's or some other ailment related to dementia. The drugs are normally intended for people suffering from schizophrenia, according to the Globe.

One medical school professor told the Globe that the use of the drugs raises questions. There is an inordinate amount of prescriptions written for a population that is already frail, and we know these drugs increase the risk for side effects, including death.

Members of the nursing home industry, however, told the Globe the drugs are sometimes necessary to keep people from hurting themselves and/or others.

The vice president of pharmacy services at Genesis Health Care, owner of more than 200 nursing homes, told the news organization that sometimes patients are given lower doses than someone with a psychosis and the data do not reflect that. There are things out there the industry can do better, there is no question about that, but there are good things in the industry that are not seen because of these issues with the statistical data.

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