Medicare Agency Plans 25% Cut in Nursing Home Patients on Risperdal and other Drugs

Published on September 23, 2014 by Sandy Liebhard

A new plan to curtail the number of nursing home patients taking Risperdal and other antipsychotic drugs is ambitious, patient advocates say, but will remain ineffective without proper regulation.

The plan was introduced in September by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and calls for a 25 percent reduction in antipsychotic drug use by the end of 2015. By the end of the following year, the federal agency hopes to increase that amount to 30 percent. The number of dementia patients taking drugs like Risperdal has already seen a 17 percent drop since 2012, when the CMS launched the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes. Still though, officials say the program will need to be routinely monitored to ensure that nursing homes are adequately limiting Risperdal and other medications.

A public policy consultant for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform addresses the issue in a recent article from “Goal-setting is not going to get us to protecting all residents who are being given these drugs,” she says.

Representatives from this organization, as well as the Center for Medicare Advocacy, National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care and the Long Term Care Community Coalition, sent a letter to the CMS this summer that voiced similar reservations about its new plan. The groups could not get behind a proposal that “promotes paltry, numerical goals that many nursing homes ignore with impunity,” according to the letter.

150,000 Americans Wrongly Given Risperdal and other Drugs

For one reason, the goals would continue to allow nursing homes to prescribe antipsychotic medications to patients, which recent statistics show to be an ongoing problem. Nearly 150,000 Americans are inappropriately given antipsychotics each year, which adds up to some 1,800 deaths annually, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates. Risperdal lawsuit filings that allege side effects of that particular medication is also continuing to increase, especially for those who claim to have developed male breasts as a result of its use. Many of these claims are now pending in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Though not specifically noted by Modern Health Care, thousands of dementia patients in the U.S. are likely taking Risperdal, a medication approved to treat schizophrenia in adults and adolescents, as well as bipolar disorder. Last year, the drug’s manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, were charged by the federal government for promoting the drugs off-label to elderly patients and children, before it was cleared for pediatric uses in 2006. The companies paid more than $2.5 billion in November 2013 to drop the charges.

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