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

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, April 19, 2012

Medicare Calls for 15% Reduction
Now Medicare officials are launching multi-pronged initiatives to reduce the use of anti-psychotic drugs in their beneficiaries. They're calling for a 15% reduction of their use in nursing homes, and are planning efforts affecting acute care facilities as well.

Though the OIG report focused on nursing homes, a closer look reveals that the use of these drugs often begins, is maintained, or is increased within hospitals. In any case, hospital leaders should be concerned that wherever these drugs are used, they can increase 30-day mortality and 30-day readmission rates.

Bad outcomes, even if they occur post acute care discharge, could result in a sizeable percentage of Medicare DRG revenues getting sliced from hospital reimbursement.

As federal and some state initiatives unfold in coming weeks, be prepared for some startlingly ugly revelations about how the healthcare system and pharmaceutical manufacturers customarily treat this behaviorally fragile population.

Physicians, hospitals, and pharmacy services should all start by looking in the mirror to assess their practices: Are these drugs truly necessary, or are they being used as a chemical restraint to keep patients from disturbing other patients or bothering staff? There are many alternatives, but I won't go into them here.

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