After a review of 40,000+ inspection reports for Illinois nursing homes, the Chicago Tribune‘s Sam Roe reports that the paper found 1,200 violations (affecting 2,900 patients) involving psychotropic drugs since 2001. More than 600 patients were drugged without their consent. According to Roe, “The actual numbers are likely far higher because regulators inspect some facilities just once every 15 months, and even then they usually check only a small sample of residents for harm.”
The violations, many of which were caused by a desire to make patients easier to deal with, were “for ‘chemical restraint’ and ‘unnecessary drugs’ as well as cases involving dosages that exceeded safety standards or falls in which psychotropics possibly played a role.”
While some nursing home residents suffer from major mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, the inspection reports show that many patients harmed by antipsychotic drugs had not been diagnosed with psychosis. They were disabled by Alzheimer’s disease, cancer or Parkinson’s disease. Some were blind or so frail that they could not breathe without the aid of an oxygen tank.
In a follow-up story, Roe reveals that doctors responsible for these dubious prescriptions are not held accountable, even when cited by government entities.
The Chicago Tribune‘s full series on nursing home safety can be found here.