Understaffed US nursing homes are increasingly turning to antipsychotic drugs to control elderly residents, even though most display symptoms of dementia rather than the psychotic disorders the drugs are intended to treat, the Wall Street Journal reports. Such “off-label” usage defies FDA warnings that elderly patients using the drugs face an increased risk of death.
Medicaid now spends more on antipsychotics than on any other drug type. “You walk into facilities where you see residents slumped over in their wheelchairs,” said one industry researcher. “That is unacceptable.” Drug makers have targeted the huge market by advertising in geriatric care magazines, though it is illegal to directly promote off-label use.