Grassley Requests Probe of Nursing Homes’ Rx Drug Use
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in a letter on Tuesday asked HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson to examine the use of antipsychotics in nursing homes, the possibility of payments to physicians who prescribe the medications and the drugs' cost to Medicare and Medicaid, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to a Journal article published on Tuesday, which Grassley cited in the letter, antipsychotics have become the most expensive class of medications for Medicaid. Nursing homes often administer the medications to dementia patients to quiet their symptoms.
In 2005, Medicaid spent $5.4 billion on atypical antipsychotics, not including rebates that the federal government might receive. Grassley also asked CMS for information about how the agency responds to nursing homes that misuse antipsychotics, a practice he called "disturbing and alarming."
A spokesperson for Levinson said that the HHS inspector general and his staff are giving the issue "very careful consideration."
Separately, Grassley sent letters to companies that manufacture three antipsychotics asking for documents about efforts to market the medications directly or indirectly for use in nursing home patients.
Johnson & Johnson and Janssen, a division of J&J that manufactures Risperdal; Eli Lilly, which manufactures Zyprexa; and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, a division of AstraZeneca that manufactures Seroquel, received letters. Representatives from the companies said that they will cooperate with the request (Legnado, Wall Street Journal, 12/6).