California nursing homes have cut down significantly on the use of anti-psychotic drugs over the last two years, the Sacramento Business Journal reports. Federal health officials say care facilities have decreased the use of these drugs by 18 percent from 2011 to 2013, exceeding a national goal established by federal health officials. California now ranks in the top tier of those that have reduced the use of mind-altering drugs in nursing homes, ranking 14th nationally, the Journal reports.
Federal officials started tracking the use of anti-psychotic medications in nursing homes after growing safety concerns about dementia patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees care for the elderly and poor mandated the 15 percent cut in 2012 and required nursing homes to utilize a new training method that uses alternative treatment methods.
Why Anti-Psychotics are Dangerous
Anti-psychotic medications are often used on elderly nursing home residents with dementia or schizophrenia. Dementia is a condition, which gradually causes individuals to lose cognitive function. People with dementia often develop behavioral issues including agitation, anxiety, screaming, wandering and resisting the care of people working with them.
Anti-psychotic medication is often used to treat patients when behavioral treatment to control or lessen troubling symptoms has not proven effective. Some nursing homes or care facilities, however, use anti-psychotics as a way to “chemically restrain” their patients. Studies show that anti-psychotics medications can cause serious side effects including increasing the risk of stroke and death.
Big Settlement with Johnson & Johnson
According to MedicareAdvocacy.org on November 4, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Johnson & Johnson had agreed to pay more than $2.2 billion dollars to resolve criminal and civil charges involving the misuse of antipsychotic drugs. Johnson & Johnson was alleged to have engaged in off-label marketing of the atypical antipsychotic drug Risperdal for nursing home residents who have dementia, but no diagnosis of psychosis, and to have paid kickbacks to physicians and pharmacists to prescribe Risperdal.
More Improvement Needed
This is of course good news. Medicare statistics from 2010 show that 24.2 percent of California nursing home residents were on anti-psychotics. Any percentage of unnecessary anti-psychotic use in nursing homes is unacceptable. Chemical restraint is often a sign of nursing home abuse or neglect. Nursing homes resort to these unethical methods when they keep their facilities understaffed – a way to reduce costs and boost profits. It is the patients and their families that get shortchanged in the process.
Anyone who has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect would be well advised to contact an experienced California nursing home abuse attorney who will fight for his or her rights and ensure that the wrongdoers are held accountable.