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North Carolina Nursing Home Injuries and the Over-Prescription of Antipsychotic Drugs

Antipsychotic drugs are extremely powerful, with potential side effects that can be very harmful.

But many nursing homes are often quick to use such drugs to control residents who are experiencing dementia or other issues. This misuse of powerful medications can be a sign of nursing home abuse or neglect. It has therefore led to concern at the federal level about the overuse of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes and other places that offer care to seniors.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Health and Human Services Department investigated the use of antipsychotics and found a startlingly high level of errors in related Medicare claims.

The OIG's report documented that, among nursing home residents with Medicare, 14 percent had claims for antipsychotic drugs. Nearly 9 in 10 (88 percent) of the "atypical antipsychotics" used were off-label prescriptions for dementia.

Antipsychotic drugs are meant to be used to treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. They should not become a catch-all response by staff when a nursing home resident appears to exhibit symptoms of dementia. Doing that diminishes the resident's quality of life and can make other injuries more likely.

Such use of antipsychotics is also counter to Medicare guidelines. The OIG report found that over half of Medicare claims for antipsychotics by nursing home residents were made erroneous.

At a recent hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, senators had many questions about the OIG report. The committee was rightly concerned that antipsychotics are so widely used to keep residents under control in nursing homes

Source: "Feds Probe Coverage of Psych Drugs Used in Nursing Homes," Medpage Today, 12-1-11

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John McCabe wrote "The Investigation and Analysis of Personal Injury Cases" in the best-selling book Personal Injury Practice in North Carolina. This is the book that other lawyers follow in handling personal injury cases.

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