The AARP joined a lawsuit against a California nursing home alleging that its staff drugged residents to make them submissive. This was the first lawsuit of its kind, alleging that the staff overmedicated residents without knowledge or consent of the patients or their families.
The class-action suit was filed against the Ventura Convalescent Hospital in Ventura, California. Both sides agreed to a settlement last May.
Chronic Misuse of Antipsychotic Drugs
The AARP Bulletin quotes an expert who estimates that as many as one in five nursing homes residents are given antipsychotic drugs that are not warranted – and that can be dangerous for elderly people.
Experts attribute this disturbing trend to understaffing, simple greed by corporate owners, and the drug companies who give kickbacks to doctors. Most patient care is handled by certified nursing assistants, (CNAs) who have very little training, and work long hours for low pay. In addition, nursing homes are now highly medical, but lacking in the presence of doctors.
The drug companies, for their part, were found guilty of claiming that their drugs could be used to control patient behavior. Last fall, the U.S. Department of Justice fined Johnson & Johnson over $2.2 billion to settle charges that included marketing antipsychotics to nursing homes when the drugs hadn’t been approved for use in elderly people. Eli Lilly was fined $1.4 billion for aggressively marketing its antipsychotic Zyprexa to elderly patients.
The inspector general of Health and Human Services released a report last March stating that, “Too many nursing homes fail to comply with federal regulations designed to prevent overmedication, giving patients antipsychotic drugs in ways that violate federal standards for unnecessary drug use. Government, taxpayers, nursing home residents, as well as their families and caregivers, should be outraged — and seek solutions.”
The Center for Medicare Advocacy in Washington, D.C. says, “The misuse of antipsychotic drugs as chemical restraints is one of the most common and long-standing, but preventable, practices causing serious harm to nursing home residents today.”
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has worked to reduce the misuse of antipsychotics by 15 percent over the last two years, and is working to drop it even further. Some homes are pioneering new treatment models that recognize dementia patients may have behavior issues and disturbances in their sleep/wake cycle, that don’t require medication and can be treated with more attentive and personalized care.