Antipsychotic Drugs Endanger Elderly With Dementia, Inspector General Says

Doctors are routinely prescribing powerful antipsychotic drugs to treat elderly nursing home patients with dementia, despite warnings that those drugs could be lethal for them, a government watchdog says.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved antipsychotic drugs such as Risperdal and Seroquel for the treatment of such serious mental disorders as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But in a new audit, the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general says 14 percent — or one in seven — of elderly nursing home patients were prescribed the drugs.

Of those, 88 percent of the prescriptions were for patients with dementia — for whom the drugs can be deadly. “These results are alarming,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley R-Iowa, who requested the audit, told The New York Times. “Medicare officials need to pay attention.”

Prescriptions for off-label uses of antipsychotic drugs — uses other than those approved by the FDA — cost the Medicare program $116 million in the first six months of 2007, the audit found.

In 2005 the FDA gave this class of drugs its most severe warning, noting the increased risk of sudden death in patients with dementia. Dr. Daniel J. Carlat, editor in chief of The Carlat Psychiatry Report newsletter, told the Times that doctors continue to prescribe them for dementia because they have few other good choices for dealing with some behavioral problems associated with dementia.

“Doctors want to maximize quality of life by treating the patient’s agitation even if that means the patient will die a bit sooner,” Carlat said.

The federal audit focused exclusively on “atypical” antipsychotics, which differ chemically from, and have different side effects than, older antipsychotic medications such as Haldol and Thorazine.

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3 comments to “Antipsychotic Drugs Endanger Elderly With Dementia, Inspector General Says”

  1. Cala

    My mom was given haldol ativan seraquel etc etc and since she had never taken them before and had nms which is a sensitivity to these drugs she went into comas and almost died. She even told the staff that she did not want them.I told them that she could not have them. They still put them in ivs and gave them to her in an injection. Now I found out that there is a law that states a person or patient has a right to just say no to these bad drugs.Wish I knew about that law before the drugs were forced on her.

  2. Nancy Hart

    My elderly dad was hospitalized for urinary infection and constipation. Drs gave him antipsychotics and nearly a month later he is still hospitalized in “Pallative and Hospice Unit”. They are killing my dad!

  3. Daniel Haszard

    Eli Lilly Zyprexa Claims Still Unresolved

    Eli Lilly Zyprexa can cause diabetes I took Zyprexa a powerful Lilly schizophrenic drug for 4 years it was prescribed to me off-label for post traumatic stress disorder was ineffective costly and gave me diabetes.

    This is a powerful drug that can damage a young person physiologically for life. Please take with caution and learn as much as you can about side effects. Eli Lilly’s #1 cash cow Zyprexa drug sale $40 billion dollars so far,has a ten times greater risk of causing type 2 diabetes over the non-user of Zyprexa. So,here we have a conflict of interest that this same company also is a big profiteer of diabetes treatment.
    FIVE at FIVE

    The Zyprexa antipsychotic drug,whose side effects can include weight gain and diabetes, was sold for “children in foster care, people who have trouble sleeping, elderly in nursing homes.”

    Five at Five was the Zyprexa sales rep slogan, meaning 5mg dispensed at 5pm would keep patients quiet.

    Google * Eli Lilly Zyprexa * and read the links. I took Zyprexa it gave me diabetes and was as addictive as tobacco.How so? Because withdrawal is accompanied by severe insomnia for 6 weeks.
    — Daniel Haszard Zyprexa Whistle-blower

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