Overuse of Antipsychotics is Costly, Dangerous for Dementia Patients

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Psychiatric drugs are being widely overprescribed to older adults with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States, according to findings from the Government Accountability Office.

Already, the Obama administration has been working with nursing homes to reduce the number of antipsychotics prescribed. However, the new report finds that the overuse of antipsychotics must also be addressed for patients with dementia who live in assisted living facilities or at home. The report recommends that Medicare officials take immediate action to help reduce these unnecessary prescriptions.

Antipsychotics like Abilify, Risperdal, Zyprexa, and clozapine are often prescribed to address behavioral changes that can develop with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, such as mood changes, personality changes, agitation, and aggression. The report attested the doctors often prescribe these medications to calm patients in nursing homes that are inadequately staffed.

However, the FDA has said that antipsychotic drugs can increase the risk of death in adults with dementia and comorbid psychosis.

In February, Michael J. Reinstein, MD, pleaded guilty to accepting almost $600,000 in illegal kickbacks for prescribing an antipsychotic to his patients in Chicago. He paid $3.79 million to the federal government and the State of Illinois in a lawsuit for his involvement of 140,000 false claims submitted to Medicare and Medicaid.

The over-prescription of these antipsychotic drugs comes at a high price to taxpayers, due to the cost of the drugs and the number of prescriptions given to Medicare patients.

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Overuse of Antipsychotics is Costly, Dangerous for Dementia Patients

Federal investigators say they have found evidence of widespread overuse of psychiatric drugs by older Americans with Alzheimer's disease, and are recommending that Medicare officials take immediate action to reduce unnecessary prescriptions.

The findings will be released Monday by the Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, and come as the Obama administration has already been working with nursing homes to reduce the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications like Abilify, Risperdal, Zyprexa and clozapine. But in the study, investigators said officials also needed to focus on overuse of such drugs by people with dementia who live at home or in assisted living facilities.

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