A recent, in-depth investigation by CNN has found that Nuedexta – a drug that increases an elderly person’s susceptibility to dangerous falls by 100%, among other potentially risks – is likely being over prescribed to elderly patients across the country who do not have the condition Nuedexta is approved to treat. Many of these patients reside in nursing homes in Southern California, where Avanir Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the drug, is headquartered. The potentially dangerous and unnecessary overprescription appears to be the result of intense efforts by the maker to get doctors to prescribe the drug to patients in return for cash payments and meals. According to CNN, Avanir Pharmaceuticals “is raking in hundreds of millions of dollars a year as it aggressively targets frail and elderly nursing home residents for whom the drug may be unnecessary or even unsafe.”
Nuedexta’s Explosive Growth in Nursing Homes
Nuedexta has been approved to treat a rare disorder called pseudobulbar affect, or PBA, a condition that affects less than 1% of the population. PBA is marked by uncontrollable laughing or crying and is often associated with multiple sclerosis or ALS, also called Lou Gherig’s Disease.
CNN reports that, in the past several years, more than half of the patients who receive Nuedexta nationwide have been in nursing homes, with a 400% increase in the number of nursing home patients who receive the drug since 2012. Is this huge increase due to the fact that there is an outbreak of PBA across nursing homes? Not likely.
Instead, the increase appears to be due to a huge internal push by the company to get doctors to prescribe Nuedexta to nursing home patients, many of whom have their prescription drug costs covered by Medicare. The CNN investigation found, among other things, that the company had told salespeople to focus “99.9%” of their efforts on targeting nursing home resident for Nuedexta by getting doctors to prescribe the drug.
One Los Angeles nursing home had 46 of its 162 residents on Nuedexta, or 28% of all residents. At another Southern California facility, an employee admitted that at least one resident was given Nuedexta not because they had symptoms of PBA but rather to control “mood disturbances.”
Nuedexta’s Dangerous Effects on the Elderly
The CNN report found that Nuedexta “has not been extensively studied in elderly patients — prompting critics to liken its use to an uncontrolled experiment.” The report also indicated that the one study (conducted by the company itself) that was done on the drug in elderly dementia patients found that “those on Nuedexta experienced falls at more than twice the rate as those on a placebo.”
Contact an California Elder Abuse Attorney Regarding Overmedication
The use of unnecessary medication in nursing homes often enriches doctors and large pharmaceutical companies while placing elderly residents at extreme physical risk. If you suspect a family member has been victimized by overmedication or unnecessary medication, contact the California elder abuse attorneys at Johnson Moore in Thousand Oaks to learn about your legal options.