New data has some good news on use of antipsychotic drugs

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Antipsychotic drugs are used less often and patient-centered treatment for behavioral health, including dementia, is on the rise, according to new July data available on the CMS Nursing Home Compare website.

The agency said its efforts to reduce antipsychotic use in nursing homes by 15 percent by the end of the year seem to be working. In 2010, CMS data showed that at least 17 percent of nursing home residents received antipsychotic drugs exceeding recommended levels. CMS launched The National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in 2012 to address this issue.

In a statement, Patrick Conway, M.D., CMS chief medical officer and director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, said that the efforts are beginning to show results. Comparisons of the first quarter of 2013 with the same time in 2011 show a 9.1 percent drop, (about 30,000 people) in antipsychotic use among long-term nursing home residents. Several states have already met the 15 percent reduction target – Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont – and others are close.

“We will continue to work with clinicians, caregivers, and communities to improve care and eliminate harm for people living with dementia,” Conway said. The Partnership to Improve Dementia Care provides enhanced training for nursing home providers and state surveyors; promotes transparency by helping institutions to make data available online and encourages use of alternate care strategies to improve dementia care.

Attendees at Health Journalism 2013 may recall member Kay Lazar’s discussion of her award-winning Boston Globe investigation that detailed just how bad the problem is in Massachusetts. She also wrote about her experience with the data in this “how I did it” article.

Members can download the Nursing Home Compare data sets here.

1 thought on “New data has some good news on use of antipsychotic drugs

  1. Jan Scherrer

    Advocates have been pushing for this change for years and it is a long time in coming. While we’re glad to see there has been some progress, questions remain. Since these drugs were used to sedate (and because of kickback schemes to nursing homes) due to inadequate staffing and since that has not changed, what is being done/used to replace these drugs. Let’s watch to make sure physical restraint use doesn’t rise. Also, what other classes of drugs might be used instead?

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