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Anti-Psychotic Drugs Remain Dangerously Overprescribed in Nursing Homes

While nursing homes and assisted living facilities have long known of the risks, anti-psychotic drugs continue to be provided to residents for whom these medicines are not only unnecessary, but could even prove deadly.

Anti-psychotic medications have long been promoted by pharmaceutical companies to nursing homes as a way to make residents more docile and compliant. Rather than hiring additional staff or providing training to nursing staff to help them understand how best to work with elderly patients with behavioral issues, facilities often use these drugs essentially as “chemical restraints,” according to an official from the Center for Medicare Advocacy. These drug companies, seeing an increase in their profits, have been found guilty in some cases of paying kickbacks to prescribing doctors and pharmacy networks who pushed the drugs to their nursing home clients and patients. One expert estimates that approximately one in every five nursing home or assisted living facility residents has been prescribed with anti-psychotic medication they do not need.

While use of a drug for an unintended purpose is often a bad idea, anti-psychotic drugs are particularly dangerous to the elderly. These drugs, designed for sufferers of severe mental illnesses including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, carry a black-box warning from the FDA stating that the drugs should not be provided to frail elderly persons or those with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. In fact, the drugs have been known to cause anxiety, confusion, agitation, disorientation, and death among Alzheimer’s patients or other elderly persons. In one tragic case, a California woman had placed her mother, an Alzheimer’s patient, in a nursing home for physical rehabilitation. When the elderly woman entered the home, she was able to perform basic self-grooming tasks for herself and was able to eat and walk unassisted. However, after being given an anti-psychotic drug by those administering her care, the woman swiftly deteriorated and died.

Not only does unnecessary administration of these drugs often put patients’ health in peril, it violates the law. Under South Carolina’s Bill of Rights for Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities, residents have a right to be free from unnecessary chemical restraints, such as medications administered for the purpose of making them more docile and controllable. Use of such drugs unnecessarily qualifies as elder abuse, and those who believe their loved ones may be a victim of such abuse should speak with an attorney to explore their legal options.

For assistance with claims of nursing home abuse in South Carolina, contact the compassionate and seasoned Columbia nursing home neglect and abuse law firm Peake & Fowler for a consultation, at 803-788-4370.