Fewer Nursing Home Residents Taking Antipsychotic Drugs, Report Finds

Fewer long-term nursing home residents are taking antipsychotic medications, compared with 2011, according to a new government report. The decrease came after a campaign that targeted overprescribing, according to The Hill.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report found 18.7 percent of long-stay nursing home residents received an antipsychotic medication in the first quarter of 2015, compared with 23.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.

In March, a report by the Government Accountability Office found evidence of widespread overuse of antipsychotic drugs by the elderly with dementia. The report called on Medicare to take immediate steps to reduce unnecessary prescriptions.

The report looked at use of psychiatric drugs by elderly people living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and at home. Dementia, which affects millions of older adults, causes behavioral symptoms such as mood changes, loss of communication, and agitation. Antipsychotic drugs may cause an increased risk of death when used by older adults with dementia.

Some nursing homes, particularly those with inadequate numbers of employees, prescribe antipsychotic drugs to patients with dementia to calm them if they display disruptive behavior such as screaming or hitting, according to the report.

The Obama Administration has already started working with nursing homes to reduce inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs. But so far, the Department of Health and Human Services has taken little action to reduce the use of these drugs in older adults living outside of nursing homes, the GAO said. “Extending educational efforts to caregivers and providers outside of the nursing home could help lower the use of antipsychotics among older adults with dementia living both inside and outside of nursing homes,” the report noted.

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