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Hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging - Overprescribed: The Human and Taxpayers' Costs of Antipsychotics in Nursing Homes


Location: Unknown

Good Afternoon. I call this hearing to order, and welcome our witnesses. Today we will discuss the
widespread, costly and often harmful use of antipsychotics in nursing homes and the efforts to find
safe and effective alternatives.

While antipsychotic drugs have been approved by the FDA to treat an array of psychiatric conditions,
numerous studies have concluded that these medications can be harmful when used by frail elders
with dementia who do not have a diagnosis of serious mental illness. In fact, the FDA issued two
"black box" warnings citing increased risk of death when these drugs are used to treat elderly patients
with dementia.

Despite these warnings, there has been little impact on antipsychotic prescription rates in long‐term
care facilities for dementia patients who do not have a diagnosis of psychosis. The most recent data
indicates increasing usage of antipsychotics among nursing home residents with dementia, and that
more than half of these patients have been prescribed these drugs.

Improper prescribing not only puts patient's health at risk, it also leads to higher health costs. We will
hear testimony by the HHS Office of Inspector General that the use of antipsychotics in nursing homes
for patients without a diagnosis of mental illness is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars
each year.

We can do better. Our second panel features experts, including Tom Hlavacek from my home state of
Wisconsin, who will discuss safe and effective alternatives to using antipsychotics to deal with behavior
issues in older dementia patients.

When properly prescribed, antipsychotics can offer beneficial treatment for individuals suffering from
mental illness. However, we have a responsibility to patients and their families to ensure that elderly
nursing home residents are free from all types of unnecessary drugs, and we have a responsibility to
taxpayers to be certain that they are not paying for drugs that are not needed. Toward that end, I will
continue working with my committee colleagues and Senator Grassley to address these issues.

Thank you all for being here. We will now turn to Senator Bob Corker for his opening remarks.

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