Nursing homes vow to cut antipsychotic use in dementia patients

Nursing homes are promising to reduce their use of antipsychotic medications on dementia patients 25 percent by 2016 and 30 percent by 2017. 

The public-private National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care announced its new goals on Friday as part of a wider effort to "re-think" care of elderly people with cognitive impairments.

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"We know that many of the diagnoses in nursing home residents do not merit antipsychotics, but they were being used anyway," said Patrick Conway, chief medical officer with Medicare and Medicaid, in a statement.

"In partnership with key stakeholders, we have set ambitious goals to reduce the use of antipsychotics because there are — for many people with dementia — behavioral and other approaches to provide this care more effectively and safely."

The government has sought for years to crack down on the unnecessary use of antipsychotics to quell anxiety and confusion among the elderly and developmentally disabled.

In one action last year, the Justice Department reached a $2.2 billion settlement with Johnson & Johnson over accusations that it improperly promoted its drug Risperdal as a way to control patients' behavior.

Now, nursing homes and long-term care facilities say they've managed to reduce the use of antipsychotics by 15 percent between 2011 and 2013.

"Behind each of those percentages are literally thousands of lives that are being improved," said Mark Parkinson, president of the American Health Care Association (AHCA), on a call with reporters Friday.

"We also agree that there is much more that can be accomplished," he added.

The National Partnership includes the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the AHCA and other long-term care providers and advocates.