Anti-psychotic Drugs Overused in Nursing Homes

Anti-pyschoticNewark, NJ-For the right person and the right reasons, anti-psychotic drugs are very beneficial. However these drugs are being overused among children and in nursing homes which can be detrimental to the patient and for elderly patients can hasten their death.

Anti-psychotics are typically used to treat people with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, but doctors are increasingly prescribing these drugs to children with behavioral problems, adults with insomnia and nursing home residents suffering from dementia.

Approximately 22 percent of all resident in U.S. nursing homes are prescribed anti-psychotic drugs, and while some residents in nursing homes, especially some suffering from dementia, need these anti-psychotics, many believe they are being over prescribed.

Last week, the American Psychiatric Association launched and initiative to help curtail the overuse of anti-psychotics. They released a list of these commonly prescribed drugs, which include Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel and Abilify, to inform the public about the potential risks of overuse. Fifty other groups threw their support behind the APA and also offer a list of common medical practices that both patients and doctors should question, USA Today reported.

Joel Yager, a psychiatry professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder told USA Today that doctors “are doing what they think might help,” but they are relying too heavily on these drugs without trying other alternatives first or carefully evaluating the effects anti-psychotics have on their patients.

In nursing homes, anti-psychotics are commonly used as chemical restraints for unruly patients. It is no longer legal to physically restrain a patient except for extreme cases so nursing homes, which are increasingly understaffed, rely on these drugs to help keep residents sedated and under control. Many believe the use of anti-psychotics in nursing homes have increased as adequate staffing has become an issue.

Typically, nursing home patients take several different medications each day and antipsychotic drugs can interact negatively with their other medications. On top of the concern of drug interactions, antipsychotic drugs can heavily sedate an elderly person, which in turn can make them become unresponsive or unconscious. These drugs can also make a nursing home resident more prone to falls and other injuries. Use of these drugs has also been tied to an increase risk of strokes and respiratory conditions.

In 2005, the Federal Drug Administration warned that patients suffering from dementia have a 60 percent chance of dying from the use of the anti-psychotics. Yet, despite this stunning statistic, close to half of all dementia patients are prescribed anti-psychotics.

The families of dementia patients should carefully consider whether they want their elderly loved on prescribed these medications considering the potential risks.

Legislators and the federal government have taken actions to curtail the use of anti-psychotic drugs for dementia patients and improve their quality of care. “Partnership to Improve Dementia Care” initiative aimed to reduce the use of anti-psychotics in nursing homes by 15 percent by the end of 2012. That goal was not met, but there has been significant progress and lawmakers hope that goal will be met by 2013. .