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Antipsychotic Drug Elder Abuse

The Chicago Tribune is currently investigating the misuse of antipsychotic drugs in Illinois nursing homes.

As a recent report in New York Injury News, Drugged, Illinois nursing home residents victimized, tells it:

The explosive investigative report is blowing the lid off the secretive nursing home practices, which have affected thousands of Illinois’ elderly and/or disabled nursing home residents. The unprecedented amounts of victims have been drugged with psychotropic drugs without their consent, or a legitimate medical psychiatric diagnosis to support the administration of powerful and possibly dangerous drugs. The Chicago Tribune uncovered 1,200 violations since 2001 at the states nursing homes that involved psychotropic medications.

These violations have affected more than 2,900 patients, and possible even more because regulatory inspections are only conducted once every 15 months. In these inspections only a small sample of residents are evaluated for harm, which leaves a large gray area of many more possible victims that have not been documented. A total of “742 Illinois nursing homes that care for traditional geriatric patients found that two-thirds of them were cited at least once in the past eight years for incidents involving psychotropics. Dozens of homes had violations year after year.”

This problem is probably national in scope, and even international in some respects. The Chicago Tribune can’t be commended enough for launching such an investigation, and pursuing the matter.

In Great Britain, for example, 10 charities, a number of care groups, and experts have signed a letter sent to The Daily Telegraph on the problem in that country earlier this year.

An article on this letter in The Daily Telegraph, ‘Scandalous abuse’ of the elderly prescribed antipsychotics in hospital exposed, explains what’s wrong with giving these drugs to the elderly.

Three quarters of nurses have seen people with dementia in general wards in hospital prescribed antipsychotic drugs that are known to double the risk of death and triple the risk of a stroke in these patients, research has shown.

It is the first time the scale of the abuse in hospital wards is exposed, following warnings that 100,000 dementia patients in care homes are prescribed the drugs leading to the deaths of 23,000 a year.

The same article goes on to say:

Earlier this year, a study published in Lancet Neurology found that antipsychotic drugs double risk of death for many patients if used over a three year period. A second study, using the records of six million people, published by the British Medical Journal online found antipsychotics tripled the risk of stroke in dementia patients.

Around 100,000 people with dementia are routinely prescribed antipsychotics in UK care homes. This could mean 23,500 people dying prematurely, according to a 2008 report by Paul Burstow MP.

People with elderly parents in nursing homes and other concerned citizens should be alarmed by these statistics, and if they find such abuses taking place, they should report them. Doing so, after all, could prove a life and death matter for somebody’s loved one.