There is evidence of widespread overuse of antipsychotic drugs by the elderly with dementia, a new government report concludes.
The report calls on Medicare to take immediate steps to reduce unnecessary prescriptions, according to The New York Times.
The findings, by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 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, the article notes. 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 notes.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging, said, "The report raises many red flags concerning the potential misuse and excessive use of antipsychotic drugs for patients with Alzheimer's and other dementias."