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Feds Urge Cuts in Use of Anti-Psychotic Drugs for Seniors

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, April 19, 2012

Federal regulators are turning up the heat to reduce the alarming quantity of dangerous, costly, and unnecessary anti-psychotic drugs prescribed to seniors to quell dementia-related anxiety—not just in nursing homes, but in hospitals too.

Nearly nine out of 10 times in which these drugs, such as risperidone (Risperdal), are given to Medicare beneficiaries, they are for uses that regulators have not approved, an Office of Inspector General's report said last May.

And it's not just risperidone. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved eight drugs, Aripiprazole, Clozapine, Olanzapine, Olanzapine/Fluoxetine, Paliperidone, Quetiapine, Risperidone, and Ziprasidone, to treat schizophrenia and acute manic and mixed episodes associated with bipolar disorder, but specifically says the drugs are not approved to treat dementia-related agitation or psychosis in seniors.

Dangers include increased chance of death, life-threatening nervous system problems, movement disorders, high blood sugar and diabetes, and low blood pressure. Other risks include increased rates of pneumonia and pressure ulcers.

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