Nursing Home Residents Receiving Wrong Medication, Study Shows

nursing home negligence

A startling new report suggests that it is very common for residents in nursing homes to receive antipsychotic drugs who should not be getting them.


Armin Keteyian, CBS News chief investigative correspondent, reports that Debra Burchard moved her father into a nursing home, and within days her father completely changed.

"Eyes glassed over with sweating, cracked mouth," Burchard said. "How did that happen in three days?"

Her father died within four weeks of living at the nursing home.

An antipsychotic drug was given to her father inappropriately who suffered from dementia. Burchard says that she blames the nursing home.

"He was laying in his bed, unresponsive," Burchard said. "I just looked at him and thought what's going on?"

The drugs, such as Seroquel, Risperdal and Zyprexa were never approved for elderly patients with dementia.

In 2005 the FDA gave the drug companies it’s most severe warning - noting an increased risk of sudden death in patients with dementia.

A government study found that 88 percent of the time Medicare paid for antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes they went to patients with dementia.

The report by the Health and Human Services Inspector General, also found that antipsychotic drugs were given to nursing home residents "unnecessarily" over 300,000 times between January and June 2007, with more than half of those drugs prescribed "in excessive dose."

"The use of anti-psychotic drugs when they are not necessary is a form of restraint," said Dr. David Zimmerman, University of Wisconsin. "It's a form of chemical restraint."

The Department of Health and Human Services also says they are very concerned that there are financial incentives for unnecessary drug use. In the past those incentives have led to charges of "kickbacks" between nursing homes, pharmacies, and a drug company.

Dr. Kenneth Brubaker believes antipsychotics are being used too often, as a representative of nursing home medical directors.

"Oftentimes lack of training, lack of adequate workforce, whatever else it might be - we tend to shortcut it by going to drugs," he said.

"I wish I would have said, 'what are you giving him? How much are you giving him?'" Burchard said.

Burchard sued the nursing home and won.

She is using some of her settlement money to create a nursing home scholarship in memory of her father.