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CANHR Launches Website to Fight Drugging of Nursing Home Residents

San Francisco — A first-of-its-kind website launched today by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) will help fight the rampant nursing home misuse of psychoactive drugs to sedate and chemically restrain their residents. The over-drugging of nursing home residents is a leading cause of elder abuse.

In recent years, nursing home residents throughout California and the nation have increasingly been subjected to powerful antipsychotic drugs that almost double their risk of death. Antipsychotic drugs are often given as a substitute for needed care. More that 25,000 California nursing home residents, mostly elders with dementia, are given these drugs despite FDA “black-box” warnings against their use.

CANHR’s new website is full of valuable information to help consumers avoid or stop inappropriate use of these drugs. The site’s features include:

  • Toxic Medicine, CANHR’s free consumer guide on how to fight nursing home misuse of psychoactive drugs;
  • A 3-part CANHR video series on how to prevent drugging of nursing home residents;
    Information on use of psychoactive drugs by each Medicare and Medi-Cal certified nursing facility in California;
  • A petition urging the Governor to crack down on nursing home misuse of psychoactive drugs;
  • The Stop Drugging Our Elders Blog, featuring regular commentary by CANHR staff and special guests;
  • An extensive News & Resources section that contains legal options for victims, pertinent laws & regulations, media articles, alternatives to drugs, studies and reports, the latest advocacy actions, government investigations & prosecutions, and more.

The website launch comes just as CANHR successfully uncovered federal data showing the use of antipsychotic drugs by each of California’s 1,238 Medicare and Medi-Cal certified nursing homes. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the drugging data to CANHR last week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed in 2009.

The CMS data shows California nursing homes use antipsychotic drugs on more than 25 percent of residents, an alarming rate because most of the residents don’t have medical conditions justifying use of these drugs. A resident’s risk of being drugged varies tremendously by nursing home, with some facilities reporting no use of antipsychotic drugs while others drug all, or nearly all of their residents.

In addition to launching the new website, CANHR’s Campaign to Stop Chemical Restraints in Nursing Homes is pressing the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to begin enforcing long-ignored laws against the drugging of nursing home residents. CDPH has done little to address the drugging epidemic.

In his 2009 veto message on SB 303 (a CANHR sponsored-bill by Senator Alquist on this issue), the Governor admitted that misuse of antipsychotic drugs is a pervasive problem in nursing homes. He cited a recent study that found more than half of residents on antipsychotics are being drugged outside federal guidelines, and directed CDPH to investigate and respond. Nearly one year later, CDPH has been silent.

“We call on the Governor to immediately make good on his word to address this crisis and to protect California nursing home residents from further abuse,” said Patricia McGinnis, CANHR’s executive director.