On its front page, in the first part of a two-part story, the Boston Globe (4/30, A1, Lazar, Carroll) reports, “Federal data show that roughly 185,000 nursing home residents in the United States received antipsychotics in 2010 contrary to federal nursing home regulators’ recommendations — often elderly people…who have Alzheimer’s or other dementias.” The medications, “which are intended to treat severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, can leave people in a stupor.” What’s more, “the US Food and Drug Administration has issued black-box warnings — the agency’s most serious medication alert — about potentially fatal side effects when antipsychotics are taken by patients with dementia.”
A separate Boston Globe (4/30, Carroll) piece explains the methodology used by the Globe in arriving at its conclusions. “The Boston Globe examined data on more than 15,600 nursing homes across the nation for its investigation of antipsychotic drug overuse. The information was supplied by the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 19 months after a Freedom of Information Act request was submitted.” The first set of data involved “the percentage of long-term residents without a psychosis or related condition who received antipsychotics contrary to federal nursing home regulators’ recommendations,” while “the characteristics of each home, such as staffing levels, number of patients on Medicaid, and the number reported by staff to have behavioral problems” made up the second set of data.
According to the USA Today (4/30, Eversley) “On Deadline” blog, “At more than one in five US nursing homes, anti-psychotic drugs are administered to people who do not have a condition that warrants their use, the Globe reports.” However, “members of the nursing-home industry…told the Globe the drugs are sometimes necessary to keep people from hurting themselves and/or others.” In fact, “Frank Grosso, vice president of pharmacy services at Genesis Health Care, owner of more than 200 nursing homes, told the news organization that sometimes patients are given lower doses than someone with a psychosis and the data do not reflect that.”
— “Use of antipsychotic drugs raises alarm,”Kay Lazar , The Boston Globe, April 29, 2012.