A story co-published by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica revealed gross nursing home neglect and medication errors in Chicago nursing homes. One Chicago nursing home psychiatrist has issued more prescriptions of the highly dangerous drug clozapine in a single year than the entire state of Texas.
Clozapine is an antipsychotic drug used to treat schizophrenia, and it has serious health risks and side effects including seizures, loss of bladder and bowel control, or changes or loss of vision. Overdoses of the drug have led to multiple deaths. The drug’s label contains no less than five dangerous warnings on the label, according to ProPublica. And yet, this dangerous drug is being prescribed for patients who are not suffering from schizophrenia.
According to the report, the doctor has been using Illinois nursing homes, especially in the Chicago area, to prescribe Clozapine to hundreds of nursing home residents. “Documents filled out by Reinstein suggest that if each of his patient visits lasts 10 minutes, he would have to work 21 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Prescribing antipsychotic medications for nursing home residents has a sordid history. Earlier this year, a health and human services report announced what amounted to an epidemic of antipsychotic over-medication in nursing homes. In June, I wrote about a British Medical Journal report that showed nursing home residents who are prescribed antipsychotic medications have a significantly higher mortality rate than those who don’t.
By now, you’re probably wondering why nursing home pharmacists, nurses, and administration would allow this drug to be so freely administered throughout the nursing home system. The risks of the medication causing severe and fatal side effects are well known.
The answer is that Clozapine and other antipsychotic drugs have a calming effect on the elderly and infirm. In addition, the pharmaceutical company who makes the drug pays doctors who prescribe it. The psychiatrist in question was paid almost $500,0000 over the past decade.
Clearly, there’s a breakdown of accountability in the nursing home system. Nursing home residents, many of them suffering from dementia, are rarely in a position to take any kind of due diligence with regards to the medications they are prescribed.
If you have a loved one who has been the victim of a medication error, or who has been given an overdose of antipsychotic or other medications in an Illinois nursing home, contact our Chicago nursing home lawyers for a free and confidential case evaluation.