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Preventing Boston Nursing Home Abuse: Many Assisted Living Facilities Still Use Antipsychotics to Control Behavioral Problems, Say New Studies

According to two new studies, many nursing home patient in the US are still being given antipsychotic drugs to regulate their problem behavior. These findings come even after the US government has attempted to curb this practice and the Food and Drug Administration issued in 2005 its “black box” warning notifying patients that may increase their risk of death when they take these powerful medications.

Although one study reports that since the warning went out there has been a 19% drop in the use of atypical antipsychotics to treat elderly dementia patients, researchers say that antipsychotics still comprised 9% of all prescription meds given to these nursing home patients in 2008. Not only are antipsychotics used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, they are also used for “off label” purposes, such as controlling problem patients’ conduct.

Dr. E. Ray Dorsey, the lead author of one of the studies and an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, believes that most of the use that he documented was for “off label” purposes.The co-author of the second study, University of Massachusetts Medical School associate professor of medicine Becky A. Briesacher, notes that there is a disconnect between the prescribing patterns and the evidence.

Her study found that one-third of nursing home patients who are treated with antipsychotics are not suffering from psychosis or dementia. Also, elderly persons admitted to assisted living facilities with high antipsychotic prescription rates were more likely to also receive prescriptions for these meds.

While some nursing home patients benefit do benefit antipsychotic drug treatment, treating a patient with antipsychotics without proper cause can be harmful to the resident and may be grounds for the victim to file a Boston nursing home abuse lawsuit. Antipsychotics drug use can lead to serious side effects, such as seizures, severe lethargy, permanent involuntary muscle movements, and sudden death.

It is illegal for nursing home to administer antipsychotics to a resident unless the doctor has prescribed it and the patient has consented to the treatment. You can read more about these two studies in the Archives of Internal Medicine’s January 11 issue.

Antipsychotics Still Widely Used in U.S. Nursing Homes, Business Week, January 11, 2010
Compromised Care: Psychotropic drugs given to nursing home patients without cause, Chicago Tribune, October 27, 2009

Related Web Resources:
Archives of Internal Medicine

US National Institute of Mental Health

Contact our Boston, Massachusetts nursing home neglect and abuse lawyers immediately so that we can help you explore your legal options.