JOHNSON MOORE TRIAL LAWYERS obtained class certification on Monday October 20, 2014 when Superior Court Judge Rocky Baio certified a Class-Action lawsuit against a Ventura County nursing facility, Mary Health of the Sick. The lawsuit alleges that nursing staff administered dangerous psychotropic drugs to patients without first verifying that informed consent had been obtained by the prescribing doctor. There are very specific rules which govern the use of these drugs in nursing homes to prevent their overuse and misuse. One of those rules requires physicians to make adequate disclosures to residents and families about the dangers of the drugs so they can make an informed choice whether to use them or not. And, before the drug can be administered by nurses, the nursing staff must first confirm in writing that such disclosures have been made.
This Class-Action suit is an important step in reducing misuse of these drugs, and promoting patient safety. If residents and families were truly informed about the side effects an of these drugs, they very likely would decline to use them. For example, antipsychotic medications such as Haldol, Seroquel, Zyprexa, and Risperdal, are not approved by the FDA for treatment of dementia related behaviors in elderly patients. In fact, studies show they substantially increase the risk of death, so much so that the FDA issued a black box warning (the most dire warning). Yet these drugs are often prescribed and given without informing the resident or family of these facts. Anti-psychotics were designed to be used to treat a medical condition known as psychosis, not the kinds of agitation or acting out common among demented elders.
Residents and family are often NOT told they have the right to refuse a medication offered by a physician if they think the side effects are too risky. This is also a violation of the rules.
Residents and family are often NOT told they have the right to have the nursing home try non-drug alternatives before resorting to drugs to calm a loved one. This is also a violation of the rules.
The effort to reduce drugging in nursing homes is in the National Spotlight. In 2011, The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services released a report underscoring the high use of atypical antipsychotic medications for “off -label” indications among nursing home residents. According to this report, 83% of atypical antipsychotic drug claims were for elderly nursing home residents who had not been diagnosed with a condition for which antipsychotic medications were approved by the FDA.
In early 2012, in response to the OIG report, as well as concerns from advocates and commitment from provider associations and other stakeholders, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) established the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes.
In our own community, the Ventura County Long Term Care ombudsman and California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform have teamed up to educate providers and families alike on the dangers of these drugs by sponsoring local symposia.
JOHNSON MOORE is interested in speaking with anyone who had a loved one at Mary Health since October 2009 about their experiences with psychotropic drugs. Please call (805) 988-3661.
To see the VC Star article, click here.