Medicare trying to curb overuse of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this week announced a partnership to improve - and reduce - the improper use of antipsychotic drugs to treat dementia patients in nursing homes.

Antipsychotic drugs generally have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. They are not approved for dementia. Indeed, several drugs got so-called black box warnings about the dangers of giving such drugs to elderly patients.

Medicare is the federal government's taxpayer-funded medical insurance program for elderly and disabled citizens.

The Partnership to Improve Dementia Care includes federal and state agencies, nursing homes and advocacy groups, according to the announcement, with the hope being a reduction of 15 percent this year. A link to the announcement is here.

CMS said its data showed that in 2010 more than 17 percent of nursing home patients had daily doses exceeding recommended levels. In July, the agency's web site for nursing home information, Nursing Home Compare, will have data on each home's antipsychotic drug use and it will be updated periodically. The Nursing Home Compare link is here.

“A CMS nursing home resident report found that almost 40 percent of nursing home patients with signs of dementia were receiving antipsychotic drugs at some point in 2010, even though there was no diagnosis of psychosis,” CMS Chief Medical Officer and Director of Clinical Standards and Quality Patrick Conway, M.D., said in a statement. “Managing dementia without relying on medication can help improve the quality of life for these residents. The Partnership to Improve Dementia Care will equip residents, caregivers, and providers with the best tools to make the right decision.”