GAO: Widespread Overuse of Antipsychotic Rx Drugs Among Elderly
Evidence suggests there is widespread overuse of psychiatric drugs among older U.S. residents with dementia, according to a Government Accountability Office report scheduled to be released Monday, the New York Times reports.
GAO investigators in 2011 noted that Medicare officials were doing little in terms of monitoring Medicare beneficiaries' prescription drug use. However, antipsychotic medications are considered a "protected clas[s]" under Medicare, which means insurers must cover all or almost all drugs in that therapeutic class.
The Obama administration has worked with nursing homes to decrease inappropriate use of medications, such as Abilify, Risperdal, Zyprexa and clozapine. However, according to the report authors, HHS "has taken little action" to lower antipsychotic drug use among older adults who do not live in nursing homes.
The authors recommended that federal officials should give attention to antipsychotic drug overuse in individuals with dementia who live at home or in assisted-living facilities. GAO recommended that Medicare officials act immediately to decrease unnecessary prescribing.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of the senators who requested the report, 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."
Toby Edelman, a lawyer at the Center for Medicare Advocacy, said, "We could save money and provide better care if nursing homes reduced the inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs" (Pear, New York Time, 3/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.