AARP also investigated this issue three years ago in 2014. Their study found that as many as one in five patients in 15,500 nursing homes are still given antipsychotics for behavior management and dementia-related symptoms. Despite the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ efforts to reduce over-prescription since, you and your loved one should know your rights.
Prescribing antipsychotics for behavioral modification is one of the biggest red flags. Whether for the elderly, adults or children, the FDA has not yet approved such off-label use. Although doctors can legally recommend drugs for off-label use, drug companies cannot. Unfortunately, drug companies were the primary pushers of Risperdal and other atypical antipsychotics for use as behavioral restraints.
The most high-profile example is the $2.2 billion fine Johnson & Johnson received in 2013 for criminal and civil charges. Prior to this case, the drug manufacturer had marketed Risperdal to nursing homes without FDA approval and further compensated physicians and pharmacies who recommended the drug for this purpose. Yet, even though this case came to a resolution, doctors in nursing homes continue to use antipsychotics specifically for this purpose.
However, the FDA has not approved this drug for restraint and behavioral modification. It also carries a black box warning specifying that the elderly and patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia should not take these drugs, as they may trigger agitation, anxiety, confusion and even death.