Article on use of antipsychotics (WSJ 12-4-07)

This will be of interest to those who are taking or those whose loved ones are taking antipsychotic medication. (Traditional antipsychotics include Haldol; atypical antipsychotics include Seroquel, Zyprexa, Risperdal, and Clozaril). This is a recent front-page Wall Street Journal article on the subject that has been getting a lot of attention. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

* “In recent years, Medicaid has spent more money on antipsychotic drugs for Americans than on any other class of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, AIDS drugs or medicine to treat high-blood pressure.”

* “Nearly 30% of the total nursing-home population is receiving antipsychotic drugs, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, known as CMS. In a practice known as ‘off label’ use of prescription drugs, patients can get these powerful medicines whether they are psychotic or not.”

* “Nursing homes often find it difficult to balance the demands of caring for certain patients against the pressure to keep staff costs down. The economics of elderly care can work in favor of drugs, because federal insurance programs reimburse more readily for pills than people.”

* “America is facing a public health crisis over the care of those with dementia, Dr. Pollock says. ‘We are left with the atypicals because we have nothing else,’ he says. These drugs have a role to play, he says, but ‘nonpharmacologic treatments’ should be tried first.”

* “The Food and Drug Administration issued a ‘black box’ warning on using the drugs for dementia patients in 2005. … Some doctors are now switching back to older, cheaper antipsychotics, such as Haldol, the FDA says. The older drugs had fallen into disuse, but don’t have a black-box warning. Now, the FDA says it’s weighing putting a black-box warning on those drugs, too.”

Here’s a link to the article:

Prescription Abuse Seen In U.S. Nursing Homes
Powerful Antipsychotics Used to Subdue Elderly; Huge Medicaid Expense
By Lucette Lagnado
Wall Street Journal
December 4, 2007; Page A1