In 2012, a federal health agency announced a new initiative aimed at reducing the use of powerful antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes. Since then, prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs have decreased only slightly. Several New York City nursing homes have seen increases in the amount of medications being used.
The initiative began after journalists investigated the wide-scale abuse of the drugs, which can be fatal in some cases. Data has revealed that the national rate of use has fallen by less than eight percent. The rate in New York City fell by only 5.4 percent. One in three New York City facilities has actually increased their usage.
Antipsychotic medications are prescribed to manage the symptoms of conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. These drugs have been prescribed at rates as high as 40 percent. In most cases, residents do not have a diagnosis of psychosis. Instead, they are used as a means of quieting patients who are suffering from dementia.
A review conducted by University of South Carolina and Harvard physicians concluded that out of every 100 dementia patients who were given antipsychotics, only nine to 25 would benefit from the drugs, and one patient would die.
Residents of nursing homes often suffer from conditions such as dementia that leave them vulnerable. As a result, they are unable to advocate for themselves. Families of nursing home residents that have been mistreated often have to step forward and advocate for their loved ones.
Families of nursing home patients who have been given powerful and dangerous antipsychotic medications might choose to enlist the help of a medical malpractice attorney. An attorney may be able to help a family fight for a better standard of care for their loved one.
Source: The New York World, "No restraint at drug-dosing New York nursing homes", Curtis Skinner, May 23, 2013