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Nursing homes improperly treat dementia with antipsychotic drugs

With the struggling economy, it seems that everyone is feeling the pinch. Nursing homes are not immune to dealing with a tightened budget, with cuts in state and federal aid and slashes in funding all too common these days. However, a new report indicates that New Jersey nursing homes are using improper and unsafe methods to deal with their reduced budgets.

According to a new government study, nursing home patients who suffer from dementia commonly receive antipsychotic medications such as Risperdal, Seroquel and Zyprexa, often with harmful effects. The Food and Drug Administration has never approved these antipsychotic drugs for use in elderly patients with dementia, and in 2005 the agency published a warning regarding the increased risk of sudden death in patients with dementia.

Despite the proven risks, nursing homes continue to use antipsychotics to treat dementia patients. The government study, which was performed by the Health and Human Services Inspector General, revealed that 88 percent of the Medicare-funded antipsychotic prescriptions in nursing homes were made to patients with dementia. Further, the study found that antipsychotics were given to nursing home residents "unnecessarily" a staggering 300,000 times between January and June of 2007, with over half of such residents receiving an "excessive dose" of the drugs.

Dr. Kenneth Brubaker, who represents nursing home medical directors, believes that antipsychotics are being used in a dangerous capacity in underfunded, understaffed residential care facilities. "Oftentimes lack of training, lack of adequate workforce, whatever else it might be," he said, "we tend to shortcut it by going to drugs."

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of nursing home negligence, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.

Source: CBS News, "Gov't finds nursing homes misuse antipsychotics," Armen Keteyian, 9 May 2011

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