US Falling Behind Britain in Addressing this Harmful Practice
SAINT LOUIS: With more than 25% of US seniors in the Medicare program being prescribed antipsychotic drugs documented to increase the risk of death, diabetes and weight gain, the mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is demanding an end to the government funding of this harmful practice. CCHR says that Medicare, as well as MedicaidÃ¢â‚¬â€which spent $5.4 billion on antipsychotics in 2005Ã¢â‚¬â€should adopt firm policies preventing financial reimbursement for the administration of these drugs to the elderly and follow the UK’s lead in launching an investigation into the widespread use of these drugs on the elderly.
In December 2007, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia (APGP) in the UK launched an inquiry into the use of antipsychotics in nursing homes due to serious concerns about the drugsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ risks and complaints that the UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s National Health Service is wasting Ã‚Â£80 million ($157 million) on prescribing these drugs to the elderly. The Alzheimer’s Society, run in partnership with the APGP, is calling for an end to what it calls Ã¢â‚¬Å“prescribing unnecessary sedative drug treatments.Ã¢â‚¬Â UK Member of Parliament Jeremy Wright stated, Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is right to investigate a practice that may be putting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities at risk.Ã¢â‚¬Â The next month, the UK medical journal The Lancet, published a study reinforcing these concerns, which found that the drugs were less effective at lessening aggression than placebos.
In the US, the drugs have increasingly come under fire:
- In 2003, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked six antipsychotic manufacturers to add a caution to the labeling warning of the potential risk of diabetes and blood sugar abnormalities.
- In 2005, the FDA warned that the drugs increase the death rate in elderly.
Ã‚Â Beginning in Oct. 2004, states began to file lawsuits against antipsychotic makers to recoup money spent on these drugs, alleging that they were fraudulently marketed and caused damaging side effects. Arkansas became the most recent state to file such a lawsuit in November 2007.
- As of the most recent settlements in June 2007, drug manufacturer Eli Lilly has paid out more than $1.2 billion in settlements to more than 30,000 individuals who suffered serious side effects from the antipsychotic Zyprexa.
Despite these risks, through heavy marketing, antipsychotic sales raked in $11.5 billion in US sales in 2006, up from $6.6 billion in 2002.
The Ã¢â‚¬Å“chemical abuseÃ¢â‚¬Â of elderly with powerful, dangerous drugs has not escaped noticeÃ¢â‚¬â€generating much controversy recently, including national exposÃƒÂ©s in Wall Street Journal (Ã¢â‚¬Å“Nursing Homes Struggle to Kick Drug Habit,Ã¢â‚¬Â Dec. 20) and BBC News (Ã¢â‚¬Å“Please Look After Dad,Ã¢â‚¬Â Dec. 3). The Wall Street Journal reports, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The widespread use of antipsychotics among the elderly has begun to draw criticism from regulators, researchers, lawmakers and some in the nursing-home industry. Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, this month asked several drug manufacturers for records on how they may have marketed these drugs for use in geriatric patients. He also has asked the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate use of the drugs in nursing homes.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Due to the life-threatening side effects of antipsychotics, CCHR says that the government must not continue to fund this dangerous chemical restraint of the elderly. According to CCHR, the public should also be warned that the drugs are prescribed based on subjective diagnoses, which are literally voted into existence by psychiatrists, many of whom have financial ties to drug companies. So-called Ã¢â‚¬Å“mental disordersÃ¢â‚¬Â cannot be validated by any physical tests, such as blood tests, brain scans or X-rays, yet the diagnoses are used to create consumers for a multi-billion dollar psycho-pharmaceutical industry.
For more information on the dangers of psychiatric drugs, read CCHR’s publication, The Report on the Escalating International Warnings on Psychiatric Drugs. To learn more about financial ties between psychiatrists and drug manufacturers, read Psychiatric Diagnostic Manual Link to Drug Manufacturers.
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights is an international psychiatric watchdog group co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus, to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights. Contact CCHR St. Louis at 314-727-8307 or CCHRSTL@CCHRSTL.org.