Federal Government and States Work to Reduce Use of Antipsychotic Drugs in Nursing Home Patients

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Wain_cats_6.jpgDementia patients can present particular challenges to nursing home staff, requiring routine care and attention. In some nursing homes around the country, staffers are using antipsychotic medications as a form of “chemical restraint” to treat dementia patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned that these medications pose risks of severe complications or death for dementia sufferers.

In order to coordinate efforts to reduce nursing homes’ use of antipsychotics, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that administers Medicare and other public assistance programs, announced a partnership with state governments and health care providers. Antipsychotics are still a problem in many nursing home in Connecticut and around the country, and they can be dangerous enough that, in many cases, they can be viewed as a form of nursing home abuse or neglect.

The group of antipsychotic medications includes two subgroups: older drugs known as “typical” antipsychotics, and newer “atypical” antipsychotics. Typical antipsychotics include drugs like Haldol and Thorazine. Atypical antipsychotics include Seroquel, Risperdal, Abilify, and Zyprexa. Their most common approved use is for the treatment of schizophrenia and related disorders. Dementia patients who also suffer from schizophrenia-related conditions may be able to take an antipsychotic medication safely. For other dementia sufferers, however, these medications can have severe, sometimes fatal side effects.