Nursing homes are treating dementia sufferers with powerful antipsychotics despite FDA advice to the contrary, according to a Health and Human Services report spotted by Pro Publica. The FDA began requiring antipsychotics to carry warning labels in 2005 stating the increased death risk they pose for dementia patients. But 88% of 1.4 million Medicare claims for the drugs in 2007 were for those diagnosed with dementia. Drug companies are pushing the drugs to nursing home doctors for such treatment even though off-label marketing like that is illegal, the department’s inspector general said in a statement.
“Despite the fact that it is potentially lethal to prescribe antipsychotics to patients with dementia, there's ample evidence that some drug companies aggressively marketed their products towards such populations, putting profits before safety,” he said. The report also slaps Medicare and Medicaid administrators for lax monitoring of nursing homes’ use of the drugs. In the first half of 2007 alone, the US paid $116 million for claims violating Medicare rules, the report finds. (Read more medication stories.)