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Nursing Homes Still Administer Dangerous Antipsychotic Drugs To Dementia Patients

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Nursing homes in the United States still administer antipsychotic drugs to thousands of elderly patients who did not give their informed consent to receive these drugs and who were not diagnosed for conditions that these drugs were designed for.

179,000 Nursing Home Resident Receive Antipsychotic Drugs Per Week

A report released by the Human Rights Watch on Monday, Feb.5, revealed that about 179,000 residents of long-term nursing homes in the country receive antipsychotic drugs per week.

The report said that nursing homes use the drugs for their sedating effects to make it easier to manage patients with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

Antipsychotic drugs were developed for patients with psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia and should be prescribed and used with caution. These drugs carry a black box warning because they can increase risk of death in dementia patients.

Researchers with HRW, however, found that elderly residents in nursing home are still being given the drugs regardless that these are not appropriate for their condition.

HRW researchers interviewed over 300 people and visited more than 100 homes in six states namely Florida, California, Kansas, Illinois, Texas, and New York from October 2016 to March 2016. They also used federal data to determine the percentage of patients who are inappropriately administered antipsychotic drugs.

Motivations For Giving Nursing Homes Patients Antipsychotic Drugs

They encountered cases of patients or their family members not being told of the risks of using antipsychotic drugs, or thought that the patient would be removed from the facility if they refuse to take the drugs.

A nursing-home social worker said that one reasons for medicating residents include cries for help. Another said that residents are medicated because of the desire for calmer behavior.

"Federal regulations require individuals to be fully informed about their treatment and provide the right to refuse treatment," the report reads. "The drugs' use as a chemical restraint — for staff convenience or to discipline or punish a resident — could constitute abuse under domestic law and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment under international law."

Last year, researchers who conducted a study about using drug-free methods to deal with dementia patients in nursing home commented about the inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs.

"We don't medicate babies when they cry or act out, because we assume that they have a need that we need to address. However, when people with dementia are unable to communicate, the current approach medicates them when they have undesirable behaviors," said Jennifer Tjia, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

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