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Are Antipsychotic Drugs Necessary to Treat Dementia?

Antipsychotic drugs are not meant to treat patients with dementia. They are powerful medications used to treat illnesses such as schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder. The medicine alters behavior patterns and aggression. Common antipsychotics such as Seroquel, Haloperidol, and Risperdal® were created specifically for individuals with severe mental illness. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) never approved these drugs for dementia treatments.

The FDA warns the public from using these drugs on dementia patients. Antipsychotics must come with a boxed warning that states,

Elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with antipsychotic drugs are at an increased risk of death…The extent to which the findings of increased mortality in observational studies may be attributed to the antipsychotic drug as opposed to some characteristic(s) of the patients is not clear. These drugs are not approved for the treatment of patients with dementia-related psychosis.

A 2011 government study found that of the claims of antipsychotic use in nursing homes, 88% pertained to treating dementia patients. Studies further show that many of the nursing homes cited for the transgression gave their residents the drugs without obtaining consent from the families. Many families claimed they had no prior knowledge of what form of medication their loved ones were given.

Under Federal law, nursing home staff cannot administer antipsychotics for their convenience. Also known as “chemical restraint,” some individuals allegedly used drugs like Seroquel and Haloperidol to control unruly residents. Antipsychotics must only be given to individuals who have a medical need and only for a short time. Like the FDA’s warning states, these drugs can be fatal to dementia patients.

Nursing homes have a responsibility to protect their patients and to provide safe care. If staff members wrongfully give antipsychotics to dementia patients, not only are they breaking the rules, but they are putting your loved one at risk. If your elderly friend or family member suffered because they were unlawfully given antipsychotics, contact our nursing home abuse attorneys today! We will fight on your behalf and ensure that you receive the representation you need.