Article by by Victoria Sackett, AARP

“New report finds the drugs often are used as chemical restraints on dementia patients

Each week, nursing homes across the United States give more than 179,000 residents powerful antipsychotics that are not approved for their condition, provide them little to no benefit or put their lives at risk. Those are the findings of a new report from Human Rights Watch, “They Want Docile: How Nursing Homes in the United States Overmedicate People with Dementia.”

The drugs are approved to treat mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but nursing homes often administer them as a form of chemical restraint for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The practice persists even though it is prohibited by both Medicare and Medicaid.

“All too often, staff justify using antipsychotic drugs on people with dementia because they interpret urgent expressions of pain or distress as disruptive behavior that needs to be suppressed,” says Hannah Flamm, an NYU School of Law fellow at Human Rights Watch.

The antipsychotics carry a black box warning cautioning against their use for frail older people or patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The Food and Drug Administration cautions that antipsychotic drugs are dangerous and possibly fatal for people with dementia, increasing the risk of falls, stroke, diabetes, heart attack and death.”

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