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Drug being investigated in light of possible nursing home abuse

According to a CNN investigation, a drug meant to be given only to those with a rare health condition is being wrongfully used in nursing homes in a manner that is not only unnecessary, but is even dangerous. The drug, Nuedexta, is used to treat pseudobulbar affect, which causes a person to laugh or cry uncontrollably. Less than 1 percent of individuals in the United States have this disorder, and they are mainly those who suffer from other conditions, such as Lou Gehrig's disease or multiple sclerosis.

However, Lexington residents may be disturbed to hear that the drug is increasingly being used on dementia and Alzheimer's patients, based on the high level of prescriptions being issued and physicians being paid to advocate for the drug. Going back to 2012, over 50 percent of all Nuedextra pills were used in nursing homes. In the four years between 2012 and 2016 the number of pills being used rose almost 400 percent to 14 million pills.

This is despite the fact that the drugmaker itself has admitted that the use of Nuedexta for elderly individuals has not been studied extensively. In addition, medical experts including those who study dementia and physicians who practice in geriatrics have reported that it is very rare that a person with dementia would also have PBA.

Moreover, according to state regulators, physicians were wrongfully making diagnoses of PBA in nursing home residents, just so that they could use Nuedexta as a means of controlling residents who were confused or agitated. CNN reports that there are dozens of incidents nationwide going back to 2013 wherein state inspectors of nursing homes questioned how the drug was being administered. Moreover, medical professionals and family members have filed reports on behalf of loved ones who were given Nuedexta about the harm the drug has caused their loved one. In fact, it was noted as a "suspect" drug in almost 1,000 adverse event reports filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

One can only hope that this recent CNN report can shed some light on the use of this drug in nursing homes. With any drug comes the potential that it will be misused on elderly patients, leading to nursing home abuse. Those who have concerns about this issue may want to discuss their situation with an attorney, particularly if they suspect nursing home abuse and neglect is an issue.

Source: CNN, "The little red pill being pushed on the elderly," Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken, Oct. 12, 2017

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