Nursing homes want easier path to prescribing meds

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A trade group that represents California nursing homes is considering whether to push for a new policy that would allow doctors to prescribe antipsychotic drugs to residents without their consent, or the consent of their families.

Some members of the group argue that at times patients are so incapacitated that they can’t make effective decisions for themselves – and that family members are often not available to respond to crises.

The debate comes as federal health care officials push to lower the rates of antipsychotic drug use in nursing homes. Just last week, federal prosecutors sued the owners of two nursing homes in Watsonville for over-medicating elderly and vulnerable residents.


The trade group – the California Culture Change Coalition – represents about 1,200 nursing homes in the state, along with patient advocates and members of the California Hospital Association. Reporting on Health, a news Web site operated by USC’s Annenberg School, says the trade group postponed a scheduled vote on the policy change in August because of disagreement among members.

And no wonder: Here’s Reporting on Health contributing editor William Heisel:

“Were California to allow dementia to be one of the reasons to give nursing home residents antipsychotics, it would run counter to the national trends and counter to the FDA recommendation against antipsychotics for elderly patients with dementia.”