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Health Highlights: Feb. 5, 2018

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Improper Use of Antipsychotic Drugs in U.S. Nursing Homes Still a Major Problem

Overmedication of residents remains a significant problem in U.S. nursing homes, despite a decline in the use of antipsychotic drugs, advocates say.

The percentage of long-term nursing home residents receiving antipsychotic drugs fell from about 24 percent in late 2011 to less than 16 percent in 2017, according to the latest Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services data, the Associated Press reported.

However, advocacy groups such as the Center for Medicare Advocacy and AARP Foundation Litigation argue that even with the reduction, the use of antipsychotics in nursing homes is still too high.

They point to federal government warnings that elderly people with dementia have an increased risk of death when given these drugs.

"Given the dire consequences, it should be zero," said Kelly Bagby, an attorney for the AARP foundation, the AP reported.

The foundation has launched several legal challenges against medication practices in nursing homes, which frequently use the drugs to sedate residents, not because they provide any benefits, according to Bagby.

The advocacy groups' position was bolstered Monday with the release of a Human Rights Watch report that said federal and state authorities need to do more to prevent improper use of antipsychotic drugs, the AP reported.

"On paper, nursing home residents have strong legal protections of their rights, but in practice, enforcement is often lacking," according to the report.

Human Rights Watch said the latest government data suggests that about 179,000 people in nursing homes who get antipsychotics don't have a diagnosis for which the drugs are approved, the AP reported.

"Antipsychotic drugs alter consciousness and can adversely affect an individual's ability to interact with others," the group said. "They can also make it easier for understaffed facilities, with direct care workers inadequately trained in dementia care, to manage the people who live there."

Human Rights Watch also said that nursing homes often administer antipsychotic drugs without the consent of residents or relatives, a violation of government regulations, the AP reported.

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Posted: February 2018


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