New York Times Investigation Found At Least 21% Of Nursing Home Residents Were On Antipsychotic Medications

The New York Times reported that the worse a nursing home’s staffing situation, the greater its use of antipsychotic drugs. “That suggests that some homes are using the powerful drugs to subdue patients and avoid having to hire extra staff. (Homes with staffing shortages are also the most likely to understate the number of residents on antipsychotics, according to the Times’s analysis of Medicare data.)”

Since 2012, nursing homes have been required to report to Medicare how many residents were getting antipsychotic medications such as Seroquel, Zyprexa, and Abilify, which make older people drowsy and more likely to fall. Antipsychotic medications are also linked to heart problems in people with dementia, and many clinical trials concluded that such drugs nearly doubled the risk of death for older dementia patients. Nonetheless, nursing home residents on antipsychotic prescriptions for schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, and Huntington’s disease are not included in a nursing home’s “quality of resident care” score, which is one of three major categories that contribute to a nursing home’s star rating. Accordingly, the percentage of nursing home residents classified as having schizophrenia has risen to 11 percent from less than 7 percent since 2012.

Schizophrenia Diagnoses In Nursing Homes

The New York Times reports: “The share of residents with a schizophrenia diagnosis has soared 70 percent since 2012, according to an analysis of Medicare data. That was the year the federal government, concerned with the overuse of antipsychotic drugs, began publicly disclosing such prescriptions by individual nursing homes. Today, one in nine residents has received a schizophrenia diagnosis. In the general population, the disorder, which has strong genetic roots, afflicts roughly one in 150 people. Schizophrenia, which often causes delusions, hallucinations and dampened emotions, is almost always diagnosed before the age of 40 …  In May, a report by a federal oversight agency said nearly one-third of long-term nursing home residents with schizophrenia diagnoses in 2018 had no Medicare record of being treated for the condition.”

“According to Medicare’s web page that tracks the effort to reduce the use of antipsychotics, fewer than 15 percent of nursing home residents are on such medications. But that figure excludes patients with schizophrenia diagnoses … The Times obtained unfiltered data that was posted on another, little-known Medicare web page, as well as facility-by-facility data that a patient advocacy group got from Medicare via an open records request and shared with The Times. The figures showed that at least 21 percent of nursing home residents — about 225,000 people — are on antipsychotics.”

“In an analysis of government inspection reports, The Times found about 5,600 instances of inspectors citing nursing homes for misusing antipsychotic medications. Nursing home officials told inspectors that they were dispensing the powerful drugs to frail patients for reasons that ranged from “health maintenance” to efforts to deal with residents who were “whining” or “asking for help.” In more than 99 percent of the cases, inspectors concluded that the violations represented only “potential,” not “actual,” harm to patients. That means the findings are unlikely to hurt the homes’ ratings.”

Depakote In Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are increasingly turning to anti-seizure medications such as Depakote, a medication to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder, for use as a chemical restraint. Depakote can cause drowsiness and increases the risk of falls. Studies have shown that Depakote does not help with dementia. Nonetheless, The New York Times reports: “prescriptions of Depakote and similar anti-seizure drugs have accelerated since the government started publicly reporting nursing homes’ use of antipsychotics. Between 2015 and 2018, the most recent data available, the use of anti-seizure drugs rose 15 percent in nursing home residents with dementia … while Depakote’s use rose, antipsychotic prescriptions fell 16 percent.” In 2012, Abbott Laboratories, which manufactures Depakote, agreed to pay the government $1.5 billion to resolve allegations that it had improperly marketed the drug, including to nursing homes.


If you or a loved one suffered injuries (or worse) while a resident of a nursing home in the United States due to nursing home drug use, nursing home neglect, nursing home negligence, nursing home abuse, a nursing home fall, or the nursing home failing to properly care for a vulnerable adult, you should promptly find a nursing home claim lawyer in your state who may investigate your nursing home claim for you and file a nursing home case on your behalf or behalf of your loved one, if appropriate.

Visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice attorneys (nursing home claim attorneys) in your U.S. state who may assist you with your nursing home claim, or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2021 at 5:25 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


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