In a recent article, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), described in detail a serious problem in nursing home facilities: pharmaceutical companies "pushing" antipsychotic medications to be used on elderly nursing home residents with dementia. Often times, these types of medications are used as "chemical restraints" on nursing home residents. AARP's article is, quite frankly, startling.
The article cites Charlene Harrington, professor of nursing and sociology at the University of San Francisco, who says "as many as 1-in-5 patients in the nation's 15,500 nursing homes are given antipsychotic drugs that are not only unnecessary, but also extremely dangerous for older patients."
The article also quotes Toby Edelman, an attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy, in Washington D.C., who calls the misuse of antipsychotic drugs "one of the most common and long-standing, but preventable, practices causing serious harm to nursing home residents." What does Mr. Edelman believe is the basic problem? Well, it's corporate greed, of course: "When nursing facilities divert funds from care of residents to corporate overhead and profits, the human toll is enormous."
What is perhaps most disturbing is that big pharmaceutical companies are essentially acting like high level drug pushers. For example, in November 2013, the United States Department of Justice settled one of the largest health care fraud cases in history against Johnson *& Johnson. The company paid $2.2 BILLION dollars to resolve criminal and civil charges. Johnson & Johnson's crimes: marketing antipsychotics to nursing homes, when the company knew they were not approved by the FDA as safe and effective for a general elderly population. Johnson & Johnson also allegedly paid kickbacks to doctors and other employees of Omnicare, the nation's largest long-term care pharmacy provider.
Part of my practice is defending those charged with crimes. I can tell you, if a client of mine did the things Johnson & Johnson was accused of doing, a fine would have been the least of the client's worries. My client would be looking at a long prison sentence, courtesy of the United States government!
Do you think you or a loved one in a nursing home is being wrongly given antipsychotic medications? If so, give us a call, maybe we can help.