Report: Kansas nursing homes over-prescribing drugs

Prescription Drugs. (KSN File Photo)

WICHITA, Kansas – A federal new report shows Kansas is among the worst in the country when it comes to prescribing anti-psychotic drugs to seniors with dementia in nursing homes. The state ranks 47th in the nation for prescribing the drugs to dementia patients. The state agency in charge of overseeing nursing homes, Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, is answering our questions about why.

It’s a problem advocates say is widespread among nursing homes. While the prescription of anti-psychotic drugs to dementia patients has gone down 17% percent nationwide, it rose slightly in Kansas.

“Not only are we doing a really poor job in managing the way we’re using these drugs but we are also getting worse,” said Mizi McFatrich with Kansas Advocates for Better Care.

Studies show the drugs can be harmful to some dementia patients, adding a higher risk for death.

Advocates say increased staffing at nursing homes and better training would reduce the need for anti-psychotic drugs.

“It really is a joint effort that needs to happen between facilities staffing adequately training their staff and the state holding them accountable for what they’re not already doing,” McFatrich said.

Despite the high number of pills being prescribed to dementia patients, the state insists the process is monitored. Pills are locked up and given only as prescribed by a doctor.

KDADS issued the following statement:

“KDADS is supportive of the coalition’s work on this issue. The agency has trained its nursing home inspection and survey staff extensively so they are able to determine whether drugs are being used appropriately. KDADS believes the quality — not the quantity — of care workers in nursing homes is a paramount factor in reducing reliance on anti-psychotic medications. We are working with care staff, nursing home administrators and trade associations to encourage a minimalist approach to the use of these types of medications.

“But neither the agency, nor the nursing homes nor outside advocacy groups can dictate to doctors what medications they may or may not prescribe for their patients. While the agency is doing everything it can to encourage a reduction in the use of these medications, we must be careful to not second guess a nursing home resident’s physician.

“KDADS continues to engage in an ongoing dialogue with Kansas’ 300-plus nursing homes regarding the responsible use of antipsychotics. The level of usage of these drugs is dropping in Kansas, but not as quickly as we would like to see it drop.”

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