New Analysis Questions Antipsychotic Drug Use in Nursing Homes

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Recent data shows that more than 250,000 nursing home residents across the country have been given unnecessary antipsychotic drugs by staff in order to sedate the patients.

A recent analysis of federal nursing home citation data by the Long-Term Community Care Coalition found that nearly 20% of nursing home residents in the United States have been administered one or more antipsychotic medications, the unnecessary use of which are prohibited by federal law. That figure constitutes more than 250,000 nursing home residents. 

As the LTCCC notes in a new report, “Broken Promises,” antipsychotic drugs “are highly potent drugs that are indicated to treat specific conditions and diagnoses, such as schizophrenia.” The inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications—often used as a chemical restraint, for sedative purposes—has been identified by the New York Times as a phenomenon that has risen in recent years. The risks of antipsychotic medication use includes increased chances of heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, and even simple falls, according to the LTCCC. 

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Nursing homes are not being held accountable for the increased use of unnecessary antipsychotic medications and the negative health risks and side effects these drugs can have on patients who do not need them.

Even though the unnecessary administration of antipsychotic medications is reportedly on the rise, the LTCCC’s analysis of federal found that health inspectors have issued only eight citations per year “for every 1,000 residents reported to be receiving antipsychotics.” Of the 6,157 citations the LTCCC identified over the three-year period of its analysis, 31 citations were identified as constituting harm to a resident or residents. “In other words,” the LTCCC states, “even when surveyors substantiate inappropriate resident drugging, 99.5% of the time they find no resident harm.” New York was one of the states with the lowest citation rates.

Drawing on its analysis, the LTCCC concluded that the unnecessary use of antipsychotic medication is “widespread” and that state health inspectors “are disinclined to hold nursing homes accountable” for the misuse of antipsychotic drugs. 

More information about the LTCCC’s analysis of federal nursing home data regarding antipsychotic medication use is available via the organization’s report. 

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents.  Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.

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