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Nursing Home Lawsuit Settled After Allegations of Prescribing Powerful Drugs With No Patient Consent

A class action lawsuit has been settled for $345,000 after dozens of patients and family members of patients allege they were given powerful drugs without due consideration for the harmful impact those drugs may have on patients. 

In one example, the son of a nursing home patient alleged he was explicit in explaining his mother’s wishes and directing doctors not to give her any painkillers except aspirin and no antipsychotic medications. Despite this, they gave her Restoril, an anti-anxiety medication, Norco (a pain medication with a high risk for addiction and dependency also known to cause respiratory distress) and Lexapro, an SSRI anti-depressant. Plaintiff alleged the nursing home signed a paper saying the doctor had received consent from patient and/ or health care power of attorney to administer the drugs, but no such permission had been given. Other patients/ families alleged they were given anitpsychotic medications to suppress certain symptoms of dementia – a practice known as “chemical restraints” that is not only largely ineffective, it can be harmful. It’s generally done more the convenience of staffers than for the benefit of the patient.

Although the amount of money to be awarded to each family is minimal, but plaintiffs say their larger goal was to compel changes at the facility. As part of the settlement agreement, the facility will be required to undergo random spot inspections of health records. The nursing home must enact clear standards explaining the benefits and risks of psycho-therapeutic drugs to residents and/ or legal representatives.

These issues are not isolated. Researchers in California recently concluded that 1 in 5 patients nationally prescribe antipsychotic drugs that are not just unnecessary, but very dangerous to older patients. The problem is three-fold:

  • Chronic understaffing;
  • Inadequate training;
  • Aggressive pushing by pharmaceutical companies to market these products.

In the past, large drug companies have been sanctioned both in criminal and civil courts for their aggressive marketing of certain medications, including antipsychotics, to nursing homes when they knew the drugs had never been given the green light by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for safety and effectiveness on the elderly. In one case, Johnson & Johnson had to pay $2.2 billion to resolve these charges as it pertained to Risperdal, an antipsychotic. Another case resulted in a $1.4 billion fine for Eli Lilly for its antipsychotic drug Zyprexa.

These kinds of medications, our nursing home abuse lawyers in Orlando know, are intended for people who are mentally ill, not for those who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, particularly when they are older and more frail. Drugs used on the latter group can result in a host of complications, including anxiety, agitation, confusion and even death. In fact, one analysis by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found use of these drugs doubled patients’ risk of death.

Another major issue, which was raised in this class action case, is that of informed consent. That is, patients and/or legal representatives need to be informed about the drugs – and consent to their use – prior to them being administered. However, all too often, that doesn’t happen.

CMS has been advocating for reducing the use of these drugs by 15 percent over two years and 30 percent over the next five years. It’s estimated some 300,000 patients still receive these medications inappropriately.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Newbury Park nursing home pays in class-action settlement, June 14, 2017, By Tom Kisken, Ventura County Star

More Blog Entries:

Nursing Home Faces Civil Suit, Workers Arrested, For Fatal Medication Mistake, July 22, 2017, Orlando Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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