The Wall Street Journal reported today that Medicaid has spent more money on antipsychotic drugs for Americans than on any other class of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, AIDS drugs or medicine to treat high-blood pressure. In a practice known as “off label” use of prescription drugs, patients can get these powerful medicines whether they are psychotic or not. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says nearly 21% of nursing-home patients who don’t have a psychosis diagnosis are on antipsychotic drugs.
Why do nursing homes push antipsychotics on residents who are not psychotic? The answer starts with the fact that almost all nursing homes are under-staffed. This reality is because staffing is the largest cost item in their budget and if costs stay low profits stay high! So what do you do with an elderly resident who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and wanders around the facility requiring more staff supervision? You give them Seroquel or Risperdal or Haldol which will “depress” the resident to the extent that they don’t wander around the facility and just sit lifelessly in their wheel chair requiring no attention. You think I am kidding? Well, just take a trip to your local nursing home and walk the halls…bet you see multiple residents slumped over in their wheel chairs.
The pharmaceutical industry makes money selling the drugs! The nursing home industry keeps their profits high by keeping their labor cost low! It’s a “win – win” for everyone……except the resident!