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General News

Government Needs To Improve Oversight of Psychiatric Drugging of Vulnerable Populations

Federal lawmakers received two major reports last week on the troubling lack of oversight at the federal level of the prescribing of psychiatric drugs to two of our nation’s most vulnerable populations:  foster children and the elderly in care facilities.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the massive psychiatric drugging of foster children recommended that federal health officials do more to monitor how state agencies oversee Medicaid doctors’ prescribing of powerful, mind-altering drugs to children who end up in the state’s care after being abused, neglected or abandoned.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., requested the GAO investigation after receiving numerous complaints about the quantity of drugs being prescribed and the adverse effects of the drugs experienced by foster kids.

The GAO recommended that the US Department of Health and Human Services  come up with guidance for states on how to oversee the prescribing of psychiatric drugs for foster children.

In a separate investigation, government inspectors called on Medicare officials to do more to stop doctors from prescribing powerful psychiatric drugs for the elderly living in care facilities.

In particular, antipsychotics are given to hundreds of thousands of elderly nursing home patients to sedate them and make them more manageable.

But the drugs carry an increased risk of death for seniors, which led the FDA to issue warnings against prescribing the drugs to the elderly.

Despite repeated government warnings, the unapproved practice has continued.

The HHS Inspector General told the Senate Committee on Aging that Medicare should begin penalizing nursing homes that overdrug with antipsychotics .  Medicare could force nursing homes to pay for drugs that are prescribed wrongly and bar the facilities from the Medicare program.

If you know a foster child or nursing home patient who has been harmed by psychiatric drugs, we want to talk to you. You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225. All information will be kept in the strictest confidence. We welcome your comments on this article below.

Categories
General News

GAO Study Details Massive Psychiatric Drugging Of Foster Children

A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to be released tomorrow reveals that American foster children are drugged with powerful, mind-altering psychiatric drugs at many times the rate of non-foster children.

The GAO’s report, based on a two-year-long investigation, looked at five states — Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and Texas.  Among the key findings:

  • Foster children were nearly five times more likely to be prescribed psychiatric drugs than non-foster children.
  • Overall, nearly one-third of the foster children in the five states under investigation were prescribed at least one psychiatric drug.  (Other studies have shown that as many as half of foster kids in other areas are on psychiatric drugs.)
  • Thousands of foster children were being prescribed psychiatric drugs at doses higher than the maximum levels approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in these five states alone, and hundreds received five or more psychiatric drugs at the same time despite absolutely no evidence supporting the simultaneous use or safety of this number of psychiatric drugs taken together.
  • Foster children were more than nine times more likely than non-foster children to be prescribed drugs for which there was no FDA-recommended dose for their age.
  •  Foster children less than 1 year old were twice as likely to be prescribed a psychiatric drug as non-foster 1-year-olds.

When U.S. Senator Thomas Carper, D-Delaware, lead requestor of the GAO report, first learned of the report’s findings, he said:

“I was almost despondent to believe that the kids under the age of one, babies under the age of one were receiving this kind of medication.”

Carper requested the study after receiving numerous reports of waste and abuse in the prescribing of psychiatric drugs to foster children.

Taxpayers foot much of the bill.  Medicaid spends more than $6 billion per year on psychiatric drugs, or nearly 30 percent of its entire drug budget, more than double what was spent in 1999, according to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

The report has already raised calls for states to report pharmacy claims of the psychiatric drugs given to foster children for more transparency on the issue.

ABC News was given advance access to the GAO report.  The ABC report can be accessed by clicking here.

If you know about a foster child who has been harmed by psychiatric drugs, we want to talk to you. You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225. All information will be kept in the strictest confidence. We welcome your comments on this article below.

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News for Colorado

Watch For The Overdrugging Of Nursing Home Patients

Colorado Ombudsman Warns Medicare/Medicaid Cuts Threaten Quality of Care

Cuts in federal and state payments for Medicare and Medicaid patients provide yet another reason for monitoring the drugs given to a loved one in a nursing home or convalescent facility.

Medicare will cut payments for short-term nursing home stays by 11.1% starting on October 1. The state Medicaid rate has been cut 1.5%. The likely result is staff layoffs and reduced expenditures for care at the facilities.

Shelley Hitt, the Colorado state ombudsman for nursing home residents, says: “We’re very concerned about what [the cuts] might mean for quality of care and operational impacts.”

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Colorado echoes her concern, particularly with regard to any use of psychiatric drugs as chemical restraints to put nursing home patients into a zombie-like condition or to put them to sleep for the convenience of the reduced number of staff.

Ask Questions About The Psychiatric Drugs Being Prescribed

Here are some questions to ask the facility’s nursing staff about the psychiatric drugs prescribed to your loved one:

• What psychiatric drugs have been prescribed and in what amounts?
• Why was each drug prescribed?
• Is there any specific, measurable positive outcome for the patient of taking each drug?
• What are the risks and side effects of each drug?

You can check for the adverse reactions to psychiatric drugs, as detailed in research studies, warnings from international regulatory authorities, and reports to the FDA, by going to CCHR International’s psychiatric drug side effects search engine.

With all this information, you can determine whether there is any benefit to your loved one from psychiatric drugs, especially in light of the many dangerous and potentially deadly side effects of these drugs for vulnerable, elderly patients.

For more information about the dangers to the elderly of psychiatric drugs, and about how psychiatric drugs are used as chemical restraints on the elderly in nursing homes, click here.

If someone you know has been wrongly drugged with psychiatric drugs in a nursing home or convalescent facility, we want to talk to you. You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225. All information will be kept in the strictest confidence. We also welcome your comments below.

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News for Wyoming

Top 10 Wyoming Medicaid Prescribers Wrote Prescriptions Totaling $5 Million on Six Antipsychotic Drugs in 2008 and 2009

U.S. Senator Requests List in Probe of Rising Medicaid Costs

Wyoming’s top 10 Medicaid prescribers of drugs at the center of a U.S. senator’s probe into fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicaid system wrote prescriptions on six antipsychotic drugs totaling $5 million in 2008 and 2009.

The Wyoming Department of Health compiled the data in response to a request from U.S. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicaid and Medicare.

In April the senator requested 2008 and 2009 data from all 50 state Medicaid agencies on the top 10 Medicaid prescribers for each of six antipsychotic and two narcotic drugs in an effort to identify “outlier” doctors who have prescribed certain drugs in much greater quantities than other doctors.

“The overutilization of prescription drugs, whether through drug abuse or outright fraud, plays a significant role in the rising cost of our health care system,” Grassley wrote.

The most glaring example, cited by Grassley in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, was a Florida doctor who wrote 96,685 prescriptions for psychiatric drugs in 21 months, with the cost billed to the state’s Medicaid program.

Because Wyoming’s top Medicaid antipsychotic prescribers are not identified by name in the Department of Health data, it is not possible to track any financial ties they might have with the pharmaceutical companies that make these drugs.  Such ties could lead to a higher use of the drugs and a higher cost to the Medicaid program without benefiting patients.

Categories
News for Colorado

Colorado Medicaid Doctor Prescribes a Whopping $1.1 Million of Antipsychotic Drugs in Just 2008 and 2009 Alone

Colorado’s top Medicaid prescriber of drugs at the center of a U.S. senator’s probe into fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicaid system billed nearly $1.1 million in 2008 and 2009 for 1,304 prescriptions written on four expensive antipsychotic drugs, according to data obtained by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Colorado.

The high-prescribing doctor was identified only by the prescriber identifier number 1093800559 in data compiled by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing (CDHCPF) in response to a request from U.S. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicaid and Medicare.

In April the senator requested 2008 and 2009 data from all 50 state Medicaid agencies on the top 10 Medicaid prescribers for each of six antipsychotic and two narcotic drugs, citing his concern they are being overprescribed at great cost to the publicly-funded Medicaid and Medicare programs.  Following his review of the data, Grassley called for a federal investigation.

Collectively Colorado’s top 10 Medicaid prescribers of the six antipsychotic drugs in question billed Medicaid a total of $8,172,649 over the two-year period, billing $3,045,015 in 2008 and $5,127,634 in 2009 for a 68 percent increase.

Colorado taxpayers have good reason to be concerned not only about the mushrooming cost of expensive antipsychotic drugs prescribed by Medicaid psychiatrists, but also the medical costs of the physical damage these drugs can cause to the Medicaid patients taking them.

The ages of the patients for whom the prescriptions were written were not part of the released data, so it is not known whether the huge jump in prescriptions in Colorado reflects the growing nationwide trend of putting children on antipsychotics, especially poor children.  A Rutgers University study last year found that children from low-income families, like those on Medicaid, were four times as likely as the privately insured to be put on antipsychotic drugs.

Drug studies of newer antipsychotics have found they can cause serious side effects in children, including diabetes, obesity, elevated cholesterol, seizures and strokes.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, “a marketing juggernaut…has made antipsychotics the nation’s top-selling class of drugs by revenue, $14.6 billion last year, with prominent promotions aimed at children.”

Because none of Colorado’s top Medicaid antipsychotic prescribers is identified by name in the CDHCPF data, it is not possible to track any financial ties they might have with the pharmaceutical companies that make these drugs, which could lead to a higher use of the drugs and a higher cost to the Medicaid program without benefiting patients.

Recently enacted national health care reform will require pharmaceutical companies to disclose payments to doctors beginning in 2013.  In the meantime Eli Lilly & Co. and Pfizer, makers of two of the antipsychotic drugs targeted by Sen. Grassley, must already disclose their payments to doctors as part of agreements reached with the U.S. Department of Justice.

With Colorado already facing what the governor’s office estimates as  a $262 million general-fund shortfall for the current 2010-11 budget and facing another $1 billion shortfall in the 2011-12 budget year, details of the number and cost of prescriptions for antipsychotic and other psychiatric in the publicly-funded Medicaid program over the past 10 years should be made public, with a special focus on the increase in the number and cost of prescriptions written on antipsychotics for children.

If you or someone you know has been harmed by taking antipsychotic drugs and you want to talk about it, we want to talk to you.  Email us or call 303-789-5225. All inquiries and communication will be handled in strictest confidence. We will take action.