Examining Antipsychotic Drug Use Among Minnesota Nursing Home Residents

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The St. Paul Pioneer Press on Saturday as part of an ongoing series about long-term care in Minnesota examined the controversy over the use of antipsychotics among nursing home residents with dementia. According to the Pioneer Press, antipsychotics are widely prescribed off-label to treat aggressive behavior associated with dementia in elderly patients.

However, although antipsychotics can be appropriate in some cases, the benefits do not always outweigh the risks, according to the Pioneer Press. Warnings on the labels of antipsychotics state that clinical studies have found that the elderly are nearly twice as likely to die prematurely when taking the drugs. In addition, some patients lose their alertness and vitality or become more agitated after taking antipsychotics.


In Minnesota, the state Department of Health cited 204 nursing homes for unnecessary use of medications -- mostly for psychosis -- in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. The state recently trained inspectors on how to better recognize overuse. Minnesota has reduced its antipsychotic usage among nursing home residents to 13.7%, down from a peak of 19.5% in 2005.

However, John Simon, a geriatric psychiatrist at Meeker County Memorial Hospital in Litchfield, Minn., said the misuse of antipsychotics will remain a problem as long as nursing homes are short-staffed and nurses lack the training needed to manage residents' behaviors (Olson, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 11/29).

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