Pharmacy Negligence: Nursing Homes

Nursing home residents often have multiple health problems that require several types of medication. While this is to be expected, some of the drugs routinely given to nursing home patients do not seem reasonable at all. Among the institutionalized elderly, the rate of prescribed sedatives , anti-depressants and anti-psychotics is shockingly high and of grave concern.

In too many instances, overworked staff find it easier to drug a patient with behavior problems than to deal with the effects. It is not unusual for a nursing home resident with dementia who refuses to be showered, dressed or groomed, to be dosed with strong anti-psychotic medications. In nursing homes nationwide, at least 40% of claims submitted for anti-psychotic drugs are inappropriate or unnecessary, or given in excessive doses for too long a time without adequate monitoring.

Risks of Excessive and Improper Medication

Elderly people who take anti-psychotic drugs increase their chances of experiencing a seizure. Those who already have a medical history of seizures may be severely injured by anti-psychotic drugs which can cause further seizures as well as irregular heartbeat. In nursing homes, medications prescribed for the wrong reasons, in questionable dosages and in unsafe combinations can create adverse drug reactions, accidents and death.

Incidences of Prescription Error

Nursing home pharmacists are responsible for reviewing patient medications and preventing potentially lethal medication mistakes. A recent study of California nursing homes found that more than half the pharmacists investigated had approved or overlooked inappropriate prescriptions for anti-psychotic drugs and ignored dangerous irregularities in drug dosages and combinations. Under California law, consulting pharmacists who work for nursing homes are required to conduct monthly reviews of patient medication charts. In 90 percent of cases, pharmacists failed to identify misuse of anti-psychotic drugs.

A Cause of the Problem

California investigators discovered a possible link between inadequate patient medication review and nursing home failure to pay a fair market rate for pharmacist services. In a majority of facilities where patients received anti-psychotic medications, pharmacists were paid below-average fees for their services. Although the average pay rate for California pharmacists is $56.29 per hour, some nursing homes billed as little as $11 an hour for their services. Investigators suspect that some pharmacists, in clear violation of the state’s anti-kickback law, were recouping their financial losses by endorsing and extending prescriptions for expensive and potentially harmful drugs.

Nursing home resident advocates argue that pharmacists who compromise their integrity and independence cannot adequately perform their protective function in regard to patient prescription care. They also call for limiting and regulating use of anti-psychotic drugs in California’s nursing homes.

If you believe your loved one has been improperly medicated in a nursing home or otherwise harmed by pharmacy negligence, contact the Orlow firm for a professional, compassionate consultation.