However, when those same medications are given to older patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other various forms of dementia, the outcome can be fatal. In fact, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has slapped these pharmaceuticals with a black box warning, noting the heightened risk of infections, heart failure and even death. And still, there are hundreds of thousands of nursing homes that continue to use them on elderly dementia patients.
Two years ago, the federal government initiated an effort to push these facilities to slash their use of antispychotic drugs for this purpose. In most places, the campaign has been relatively effective, with use dropping below 20 percent. However, new research indicates that when nursing homes ignore the potential health risks, there are few sanctions or consequence.