Nursing Home Residents Given Drugs That Nearly Doubled Their Risk of Death

Medication errors are an unfortunate reality of our healthcare system, as far too many nursing homes are understaffed and ill prepared to meet resident'€™s needs. These errors not only threaten the health and safety of vulnerable elderly residents, they also cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

The New York Times Old Age Blog revealed a shocking new report from the Department of Health and Human Services that shows hundreds of thousands of elderly nursing home residents with dementia were overmedicated with strong anti-psychotic drugs that increased their risk of death. These drugs include Seroquel, Risperdal, and Zyprexa, which are meant to treat serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia.

There is ample evidence that drug companies have aggressively marketed these anti-psychotic drugs to dementia patients, even though such use is potentially lethal. A series of recent lawsuits and settlements show that drug companies routinely put profits before safety. Eli Lilly pleaded guilty to criminal charges for illegally marketing its drug Zyprexa, Pfizer settled a claim that its anti-psychotic drugs were improperly promoted for off label uses, and federal prosecution is pending against Johnson & Johnson for allegedly paying kickbacks to nursing homes to increase Risperdal prescriptions for dementia patients.

Taxpayers ultimately pay the price for these medication errors. The government audit found that more than half of all Medicare claims for atypical anti-psychotic drugs were erroneous, costing about $116 million in taxpayer funds in 2007.

Chicago nursing home attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have represented many nursing home residents whose lives have been irreversibly harmed by medication errors. Families of nursing home residents should be able to trust that their loved ones are being taken care of and these drug errors unjustifiably deprive them of the safety and security that they deserve

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