A new federal report finds nearly 9 in 10 dementia patients in nursing homes are being given powerful anti-psychotic drugs, even though the drugs aren’t approved for that purpose. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says it’s an outrage that so many elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease are being fed medications that don’t help and might even harm them.
“This is something that is kinda’ common today in psychiatry,” Grassley says. “We have this over-prescribing of anti-psychotic drugs and it’s being used on the elderly in unapproved use, in other words, something that the FDA wasn’t checking on.” Grassley’s sending a letter to the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in response to the report. He says the government needs to do a better job of protecting nursing home residents from unnecessary drugs.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of needing more legislation,” Grassley says. “I think it’s a matter of making sure that people that’re enforcing and buying things, it’s a matter of them getting the bureaucracy doing its job.” Grassley, a Republican, says he’s working to hold the Medicare program and nursing homes accountable for the quality of care delivered to nursing home patients.”
“In this case, there’s an astounding waste of taxpayers’ dollars,” Grassley says. “The Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services need to wake up and do their job. If it took legislation, I would propose it but at this point, I don’t think it takes legislation.” Officials say Alzheimer’s patients who don’t have a diagnosis of psychosis can be seriously harmed by this class of anti-psychotic drugs. The report was issued by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. It’s called, “Medicare Atypical Antipsychotic Drug Claims for Elderly Nursing Home Residents,” and was requested by Grassley in December 2007.
The report found 88% of the anti-psychotic drugs being prescribed to nursing home residents with dementia were for uses that have not been approved by the FDA, even though the drug labels contain “black box warnings” of an increased risk of death in elderly patients with dementia. The report also shows 22% of the nursing homes failed to meet federal standards on unnecessary drug use in nursing homes.