Study say psychiatric drugs overused on elderly

A federal investigation by the Government Accountability Office concludes that too many elderly Americans with dementia and Alzheimer's disease are being prescribed with psychiatric drugs and recommends that Medicare officials need to focus on reducing the practice.

While acknowledging that the Obama administration has begun working to reduce overuse of antipsychotic medications in nursing homes, the agency's report notes that more action needs to be taken to reduce drug overuse by people with dementia who live outside of nursing homes, such as at home or in assisted living facilities.

One possible explanations for why antipsychotic drugs may be being overprescribed, investigators said, was that the drugs are sometimes given to calm patients' behavioral symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer's, including yelling or hitting. However, experts said prescribing antipsychotic drugs to address behavioral symptoms can be dangerous and lead to increased risk of death in older adults with both dementia and psychosis.

In addition to being potentially harmful to the health of people with Alzheimer's or other types of dementia, excessive use of antipsychotic drugs can increase risk of death, falls, hospitalizations and other health complications, according to the American Health Care Association. Also, antipsychotic drugs are also expensive, costing hundreds of millions of Medicare dollars, and that reducing overuse of antipsychotic drugs will likely both save money in the long run and will help lead to better care for patients.

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Sourced from: New York Times, Psychiatric Drug Overuse Is Cited by Federal Study