A new report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an arm of the United States Congress, revealed that older Americans are being overprescribed with antipsychotic drugs, especially for the elderly patients that are suffering from dementia.

The GAO is now further faulting the Department of Health and Human Services, as the agency "has taken little action" in reducing the usage of antipsychotic medicine among senior citizens that are not living within nursing homes. According to the agency, the problem is the prevalence of unnecessary prescriptions.

"The report raises many red flags concerning the potential misuse and excessive use of antipsychotic drugs for patients with Alzheimer's and other dementias," said Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

According to the report by the GAO, 61 percent of senior citizens living in nursing homes that have been diagnosed with dementia who were said to pose a risk to both themselves and others were given prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs in 2012.

About one-third of all senior citizens enrolled under Medicare Part D who have dementia and spent at least 100 days inside a nursing home were prescribed with antipsychotic medicine in the same year. For elderly patients with dementia but were not in a nursing home, the figure was down to 14 percent.

The GAO said that part of the issue is that while patients suffering from dementia often have mood changes and comorbid behavior, there has been no approval on antipsychotic drugs to treat these symptoms.

Doctors often prescribe antipsychotic medicine for patients that exhibit disruptive behaviors that include screaming and hitting others. Such prescriptions are common in nursing homes that are understaffed, which makes managing the patients easier.

Prescriptions for antipsychotic medicine for senior citizens also warrant significant costs. Figures collected by the GAO showed that in 2012, Medicare Part D accounts had to pay almost $363 million for medications of patients suffering from dementia, which make up a huge portion of all residents of nursing homes. In that year almost 40 percent of the residents of nursing homes, specifically about 1.1 million out of 2.8 million patients, were diagnosed with dementia.

The recommendation made by the GAO to the HHS was for the expansion of the agency's educational and outreach efforts for the reduction of the usage of antipsychotic medicine for elderly patients suffering from dementia. According to the GAO, the HHS has agreed with this recommendation.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, antipsychotic medicine could possibly increase the death risk among senior citizens suffering from both dementia and psychosis.

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