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New Amendment to End the Abuse of Antipsychotic Drugs in California Nursing Homes

Antipsychotic drugs, intended to treat mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, are the most commonly abused class of drugs in Los Angeles nursing homes. Despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that using antipsychotic drugs to treat dementia patients can be fatal, one in four California nursing home residents receive these drugs before they are given safer and less expensive treatments.

Often, these drugs are used to chemically restrained patients, especially in understaffed facilities that lack the resources to provide proper dementia care to their patients. Rather than sedating dementia patients with antipsychotic drugs, nursing homes should be taking a non-pharmacological approach to the treatment of dementia. Numerous studies have been conducted to test the effectiveness of various dementia treatments and the results have consistently shown that dementia treatments should be behavioral in nature and involve social and leisure activities. In fact, other studies have shown that antipsychotic drugs actually aggravate certain symptoms of dementia, such as agitation, violent behavior, and delirium.

Because the abuse of antipsychotic drugs directly threatens the mental and physical well-being of patients, it has become a major issue of contention in nursing homes today. This week, U.S. Senators Kohl, Grassley, and Blumenthal took an initiative to end the abuse of antipsychotic drugs in skilled nursing facilities. They have proposed an amendment to the FDA’s Safety and Innovation Act S. 3187 that requires nursing homes to inform patients of the risks associated with using antipsychotic drugs and receive consent from the patients or their legal guardians before administering these drugs.

The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) is working diligently to ensure the passage of this amendment. We encourage you to learn more about CANHR’s Campaign to end the Misuse of Psychotropic Drugs in California Nursing Homes. You can also contact California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to urge them to vote for this amendment to the Safety and Innovation Act S. 3187.

Even if you feel that the Safety and Innovation Act does not directly affect you or any of your loved ones, it is still important and beneficial for you to support this initiative because skilled nursing facilities are using Medicare funds to pay for these medications. In 2007, $116 million of taxpayers’ money were used to pay for the off-label use of antipsychotic drugs. This money could have been better spent in other areas desperately lacking in funding, or saved by using cheaper and safer non-pharmacological treatments for dementia.

If your nursing home is located in Calabasas, Claremont, or Carson, and is improperly administering antipsychotic drugs to treat dementia, you may be a victim of nursing home neglect. Contact us today to see how we can help obtain the rights to which you are entitled.