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In December, NPR reported that nearly 1 in 5 nursing home residents takes dangerous antipsychotic drugs. That's despite a strong warning from the FDA saying that these drugs can be lethal for older people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. Well, now a report from the GAO, the Government Accountability Office, finds that antipsychotic drugs are also overprescribed for dementia patients who don't live in nursing homes. NPR's Ina Jaffe reports.
INA JAFFE, BYLINE: According to the GAO, about 1 in 7 older adults with dementia who don't live in nursing homes were taking antipsychotic drugs in 2012. While this is not as high as the percentage of nursing home residents on antipsychotics, it's still evidence of a tendency to give potentially harmful drugs to deal with the behaviors of people with Alzheimer's or other dementias.
Professor Bradley Williams teaches pharmacy and gerontology at the University of Southern California. He says antipsychotics should only be given to dementia patients as a last resort.
BRADLEY WILLIAMS: They blunt behaviors. They can cause sedation. It increases their risk for falls. And if you just want to get to the very basic bottom line, why should someone pay for something that's not needed?
JAFFE: It's Medicare that's usually paying for such drugs as Risperdal or Seroquel. They're approved to treat serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder but not symptoms of dementia. In 2012, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched a campaign to reduce the use of these drugs in nursing homes. And in fact, usage there is declining. The GAO report says the same effort needs to be put into cutting the number of dementia patients taking antipsychotics in assisted living or in their own homes. Ina Jaffe, NPR News.
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