U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal says health care providers too often turn to drugs to sedate uncontrollable elderly patients who suffer from dementia and other mood-altering diseases. The junior senator from Connecticut on Tuesday drew attention to a bill he has introduced to Congress to set new rules and permissions for the use of antipsychotic drugs, which are administered when a patient becomes unruly. He said the drugs have legitimate uses, but should not be a first resort.
"This concerns me deeply as a legislator and a parent," Blumenthal said. "I'm here to talk about patient abuse. We are talking about the overuse of psychotic drugs that can have lethal affects for our elderly. It's a chemical restraint and should be stopped."
Blumenthal's bill would establish protocols for dispensing the drugs, require more training of health care professionals and allow family members to decide if they want the products used at all.
Nancy Schaffer, the state's long-term care ombudsman, said a majority of state nursing homes turn to psychotic drugs to calm patients, usually those suffering from dementia.
"We know that antipsychotic prescriptions for elders is not the answer. Together, I hope we can better educate and provide training and supervision so that residents are able to maintain the high quality of life they deserve," Schaffer said.
Although the federal Food and Drug Administration has approved antipsychotic drugs to treat numerous psychiatric conditions, studies conducted during the last decade have concluded that these medications can be harmful when used on patients with dementia who do not have a diagnosis of psychosis, Blumenthal said.