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Press Release by California Senator Elaine Alquist

Thursday, September 03, 2009 at 3:10 PM

SACRAMENTO – An elderly patient safety meant to halt the abuse of psychoactive drugs in nursing homes is fighting its way through the California Assembly. And in a related matter, two major pharmaceutical firms are facing two multi-billion court settlements on the illegal marketing and use of anti-psychotic drugs. The anti-psychotic drug bill, SB 303, passed off the Senate floor and is authored by Senator Elaine Kontominas Alquist (D-San Jose).

In January 2009, Eli Lilly & Co. pleaded guilty to illegally marketing the anti-psychotic drug, Zyprexa, and will pay $1.42 billion to settle civil suits with 30 states. Pfizer, Inc. agreed this week to settle charges that it illegally marketed four drugs inappropriately, including the anti-psychotic drug, Geodon. The Pfizer settlement of $2.3 billion is considered the largest health-care fraud settlement in the U.S. Department of Justice’s history.

In 2000, Sen. Alquist authored AB 894, a measure meant to decrease the use of anti-psychotic drugs in nursing homes. Instead, the use of these drugs increased 30 percent, partly because nursing home administrators claimed the law was unclear, and partly because the drugs were heavily marketed by pharmaceuticals firms as approved treatments for dementia, and Alzheimer-related dementia cases. Both were false claims. This legislative year, Sen. Alquist has introduced SB 303 to further strengthen and clarify current regulations on the use of anti-psychotic drugs.

“When SB 303 passes, there will be no misinterpretations, no excuses, and no getting around the law,” Sen. Alquist said. “Everyone has a fundamental right to control what happens to their body. And nobody should drug a nursing home resident for convenience.”

SB 303 requires physicians to inform the resident or the resident’s representative of the severe risk associated with taking the drug. It also requires nursing home staff to verify that a physician obtained the resident’s approval, and then gain a final verification from the resident or resident representative that the anti-psychotic drug was approved. A clause in SB 303 provides for an Emergency Exception under current law, which allows for the administration of a psychotherapeutic drug when the resident is likely to suffer harm, or harm others.

For more information on SB 303, please read the analyses of the bill. SB 303 is tentatively scheduled for a full Assembly vote either Thursday or Friday, September 3-4.