Nursing Homes Often Medicate Residents Without Psychosis

"In recent years, Medicaid has spent more money on antipsychotic drugs for Americans than on any other class of pharmaceuticals," largely because nursing homes are "giving these drugs to elderly patients to quiet symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia" -- conditions for which the drugs are not approved by FDA, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to CMS, 21% of nursing home residents who do not have a diagnosis of psychosis are prescribed antipsychotic drugs. "The growing off-label use of antipsychotic medicines in the elderly is coming under fire from regulators, academics, patient advocates and even some in the nursing home industry," the Journal reports.

Christie Teigland, director of informatics research for the New York Association of Homes and Services for the Aging -- a not-for-profit industry group -- said, "You walk into facilities where you see residents slumped over in their wheelchairs, their heads are hanging, and they're out of it, and that is unacceptable." According to Teigland, her research shows about one-third of dementia patients in nursing homes in New York state are receiving antipsychotics, with some facilities dispensing the drugs at rates as high as 60% to 70% of patients.