White Coat Notes

Federal regulators: Use of powerful sedatives in nursing homes falling

A national effort aimed at stopping nursing homes from giving powerful sedatives to control patients who should not be receiving the drugs appears to be working, according to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The federaly agency said Tuesday that use of antipsychotic drugs for long-stay nursing home residents was about 9 percent lower in the first three months of this year, compared with the last three months of 2011. As a result, about 30,000 fewer people were receiving the drugs.

Boston Globe’s Kay Lazar reported last year that more than 1 in 5 nursing homes in the United States were inappropriately administering the drugs. Antipsychotics are meant to be used by patients with severe mental illness but can have fatal side effects when given to patients with dementia. The Globe also launched a database allowing people to search antipsychotic use at specific nursing homes.

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Federal regulators launched the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care, with the goal of reducing antipsychotic use by 15 percent by the end of this year. Eleven states—including Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have hit that target, the agency said.

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