Inappropriate Use of Psychiatric Medicines in Nursing Homes

An HHS Office of the Inspector General (IG) report says many elderly nursing home residents suffering from dementia may be victims of overmedication with strong anti-psychotic drugs that could harm them. The HHS IG reports that in 2007, more than 300,000 nursing home residents got powerful drugs meant for treating serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But nearly 90 percent of the time, the prescriptions were for patients suffering from dementia, a condition for which the anti-psychotic drugs are not approved. The Food and Drug Administration says elderly people with dementia face a higher risk of death when treated with such drugs. Doctors are free to prescribe the medications as they see fit, but the government can prosecute drug makers for encouraging unapproved uses.