Articles Posted in Antipsychotic Drugs

More patients in San Diego County nursing homes and across the country are being diagnosed with schizophrenia for reasons that are questionable and raise concerns about nursing home negligence, as a recent article in The New York Times suggested. But are some patients more affected than others, and is race playing a role? A follow-up report in The New York Times argues that Black residents are being disproportionately affected by these harmful diagnoses and subsequent administration of antipsychotic medications, suggesting that nursing home abuse has a clear racial dimension in these situations. Are schizophrenia diagnoses, and other issues in nursing homes, affecting Black residents more than other elderly patients at skilled nursing facilities? 

Black Nursing Home Residents are Diagnosed with Schizophrenia More Often

More nursing home residents are being diagnosed with schizophrenia so that the facilities can administer antipsychotic drugs to “difficult” patients, The New York Times has suggested. Indeed, since nursing home residents with schizophrenia can still readily be prescribed antipsychotic medications (whereas regulations have attempted to reduce the use of antipsychotics in other nursing home cases), there has been a surge in the number of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia. Since 2012, the number of elderly patients diagnosed with schizophrenia has “grown by 70%.” The article points to a new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, which found that the “impact of this has been more severe on Black residents.”

According to a recent article from Kaiser Health News, until recently, a California law permitted nursing homes to make decisions—include about end-of-life care—for nursing home residents who have been declared incompetent. However, a state court recently held that the law, which was enacted more than twenty years ago, is unconstitutional.7750519890_1720d30f09

Nursing Homes Cannot Violate Patients’ Rights

The law remained in effect until Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio M. Grillo ruled that the law is unconstitutional in a decision that came down at the end of last month. As the judge explained, “the law violates patients’ due process rights because it doesn’t require nursing homes to notify patients they have been deemed incapacitated or to give them the chance to object.” While Grillo indicated that he knows the decision “is likely to cause problems” for regular nursing home operations, it’s more important to put nursing home patients’ rights above practical logistics.

How dangerous are psychiatric medications when they’re prescribed for dementia patients in nursing homes? According to a recent article in Modern Healthcare, the benefits of the long-term use of psych meds when they’re prescribed for the disorders for which they’re designed—would “need to be colossal to counter known harms associated with their use.” And while the off-label use of antipsychotics to treat dementia symptoms appears to have declined, it remains a significant problem in Southern California and throughout the country.


Stopping Use of Psychotropic Drugs

Researchers across the globe are speaking out about the dangers of antipsychotic drugs. To be sure, a debate about their efficacy and long-term effects recently sprung up on the website for the journal of the British Medical Association. According to Dr. Peter Gøtzsche, who serves as the director of the Nordic Cochrane Center, the lack of benefit from these medications, particularly when they’re used in an off-label manner, means that “we could stop almost all psychotropic drugs without causing harm.” For even when they’re used to provide short-term relief, he emphasized, they pose serious long-term harms.

Nursing homes in California should take note of the negative publicity surrounding elder abuse and assisted-living facilities in our state.  A recent article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel described serious nursing home abuse allegations that point to fraudulent Medicare claims and poor patient treatment.  In Watsonville, located in Santa Cruz County, the owners of two nursing homes are facing a lawsuit.  According to the report, federal prosecutors sued the owners “allegiDSC08554-bng that leaders made fraudulent Medicare claims” and “persistently and severely overmedicated elderly and vulnerable residents.”

Overmedication and Fraud Allegations

The two nursing homes at issue are Country Villa Watsonville Easy Nursing Center and Country Villa Watsonville West Nursing Center, both in Santa Cruz County.  The owners have been linked to serious crimes connected to nursing home abuse and neglect.

Earlier this month, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay a settlement of more than $2.2 billion connected to “accusations that it improperly promoted the antipsychotic drug Risperdal to older adults,” according to a recent article in the New York Times. This resolution actually represents the third-largest pharmaceutical settlement in our country, and it’s one of the largest agreements in “a string of recent cases involving the marketing of antipsychotic and antiseizure drugs to older dementia patients.” The federal government is working to ensure that pharmaceutical companies are held liable for bad drugs and bad marketing.

Pills%20Credit.jpgThis news is only the latest in many reports concerning elderly dementia patients and the varied problems of antipsychotic drugs. Indeed, the California Department of Public Health and the Department of Health Care Services have been working to reduce the “off-label” use of antipsychotic medications in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities across the state. Experienced California elder justice advocates have been handling cases involving the use of antipsychotic medications, and the dedicated lawyers at the Walton Law Firm can discuss your claim with you today.

What is Risperdal?

A few months ago we talked about the widespread use of antipsychotic drugs for patients with dementia. Across the United States, off-label use is a major problem in nursing homes. In case you don’t remember, “off-label use” refers to situations in which physicians prescribe drugs for patients without medical diagnoses that actually require the use of those drugs. In nursing homes, off-label use of antipsychotics is most prevalent for residents suffering from dementia.

In many cases these patients are victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. What can we do about it here in California? If you’re concerned that an elderly loved one has suffered abuse at a nursing home or assisted-living facility, the first step is to contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer. In fact, many nursing home abuse lawyers are licensed by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR). A CANHR elder justice advocate will ensure that your elderly loved ones are protected and safe.

California Initiatives for Antipsychotic Medication Reduction

Many older adults who experience depression may see their risks for developing Alzheimer’s and dementia increase, according to a recent article in the New York Times. This is a serious issue for patients in nursing homes and other elder care facilities. While elder abuse and neglect can take many forms, the failure to provide for a patient’s mental needs, such as depression, may constitute neglect.

Statistics on Depression and Alzheimer’s Disease

The New York Times article reported that current research suggests that “late-life depression” has not only led to increased risks for “social isolation, poorer health, and an increased risk of death,” but it also may lead to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of vascular dementia. With an increasingly large population of older adults, these facts are concerning.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home who has been diagnosed with dementia, you may want to read closely. A recent article in The Tennessean reported that antipsychotic drugs are being overused in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, particularly for patients who have been diagnosed with dementia. While we don’t immediately think about medication practices when considering nursing home abuse, widespread antipsychotic drug use in certain nursing home patients is startling.

How Widespread is ‘Off-Label’ Use?

State statistics vary for nursing home use of antipsychotics. In Tennessee, nearly 30 percent of current long-term nursing home residents receiving care are treated with antipsychotic medications, while the national average is still a large 23.8 percent. The Hartford Courant recently reported that a local Connecticut nursing home was found prescribing antipsychotic drugs to two-thirds of its long-term residents without medical diagnoses that would require the use of these medications. This is called “off-label” use, and some health officials worry that dementia patients are being treated with antipsychotics to control their erratic behavior “instead of treating their dementia symptoms through non-pharmacologic therapy.”

Gwen D. Hughes, a former California nursing home director, was sentenced on Wednesday to three years in state prison for inappropriately medicating patients at a Kern County nursing home. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Hughes was originally charged in the deaths of three patients. Hughes however pleaded no contest in October to one felony count of elder abuse with a special allegation that the abuse contributed to the victim’s death, according to the article.

Hughes was working as nursing home director at Kern Valley Healthcare District’s facility in Lake Isabella at the time of the alleged crimes. California Department of Justice officials, including Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, allege that Hughes ordered the director of pharmacy to write doctor’s orders for psychotropic medication for 23 patients.

The prescriptions were not written for health or therapeutic reasons, but instead written to “keep them quiet” says the article. The Justice Officials allege that the psychotropic drugs were given to patients who were “noisy, prone to wandering, who complained about conditions or were argumentative” according to the article. This is clearly an example of nursing home abuse.

San Diego nursing home neglect attorneys know that when it comes to mistreatment and abuse of those at long-term care facilities, it is a constant challenge to get those affected to come forward. For many reasons–including their own disabilities–many at these facilities are unable or unlikely to explain when they have been affected by negligent care. For that reason, it is crucial that outside observers provide necessary oversight to ensure problems are addressed. doctor.jpg

Unfortunately, a new report released by the Department of Public Health raises huge red flags regarding the care provided at many of the largest institutions for the developmentally disabled across the state. The stark details laid out in the report are yet another reminder of the crucial role that friends and family play in identifying mistreatment among those who are often unable to stand up to their abusers themselves.

The Report

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