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August 5, 2013

Legislation seeks better monitoring of drug treatments

State Sen. O'Connor Ives files bill in response to treatment of some Alzheimer patients

(Continued)

He died a few days later.

In the time since then, Hemp has become an ombudsman, or a patients’ advocate in nursing homes, and has seen similar stories. “It seems like what they’re doing is putting them in a locked facility, like a kennel, and drugging them because they don’t have the staff or the knowledge to take care of these people,” Hemp said. “They don’t have the training, is what I found.”

The proposals are in response to stories like Hemp’s and continuing pressure from people who say a loved one in a nursing home had suffered serious side effects or had died after being administered these drugs. Hemp said she worked with staff members working for former state Sen. Steve Baddour, D-Methuen, one of whom now works for O’Connor Ives.

A joint legislative committee held hearings on the issue last month.

A federal investigation found that use of antipsychotics for dementia and Alzheimer’s is not uncommon.

A 2011 report by the inspector general of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development warned that “too many of these (nursing home) institutions fail to comply with federal regulations designed to prevent overmedication, giving nursing home patients antipsychotic drugs in ways that violate federal standards for unnecessary drug use.”

The report, which looked into requests for payment to Medicare from nursing homes across the country, also said that the drugs were prescribed for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. “Potentially most alarming, 88 percent of the times these drugs were prescribed for elderly patients with dementia, a population the FDA has warned faces an increased risk of death from this class of drugs,” Daniel R. Levinson, HUD inspector general, wrote.

Indeed, the FDA issued two public health advisories in the last eight years warning that elderly patients with dementia have a higher risk of death when taking several different brands and types of antipsychotic drugs.

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