Medical Malpractice and Prescription Abuse in Nursing Homes: What You Need to Know

With the increasing elderly population, incidences of prescription errors are on the rise. One study suggests that approximately one in five prescriptions given to elderly persons are unnecessary and may lead to high risk adverse events in nursing homes. This inappropriate medication prescription has been defined as any prescription that introduces a “significant risk of an adverse drug related event when there is evidence for an equally or more effective alternative medication” (Opondo, et al, 2012). If there is an inappropriate medication prescription, or if there are adverse risks that were not properly considered or disclosed by a doctor, the patient may have a medical malpractice claim.

One recent example of inappropriate medication prescriptions to the elderly involves the pharmaceutical drug, Nuedexta. According to a recent CNN report, geriatric physicians have been increasingly prescribing this unnecessary and unsafe drug to nursing home residents suffering from dementia and other neurological disorders. Nuedexta was only approved by the FDA to treat a rare disorder, Pseudobulbar Affect or PBA, which is commonly referred to as emotional incontinence. PBA is oftentimes diagnosed along with ALS or multiple sclerosis, but CNN reports that it is being increasingly diagnosed in other patients who do not exhibit the classic signs of the disorder. The report opines that much of the increased prescription activity may be due to financial incentives provided to prescribing doctors from the drug’s manufacturer, Avenir Pharmaceuticals.

What is most surprising is that the drug is being increasingly prescribed to elderly patients even though it has not been extensively studied within that population. In fact, the only study performed actually shows that those individuals on Nuedexta “experienced falls at more than twice the rate as those on a placebo.”

Hopefully, the CNN report will raise awareness of the significant dangers associated with the inappropriate prescription of pharmaceutical drugs and lead to the decline of the prevalence of this activity. However, it is also important to take steps to protect your elderly loved ones from this potential medical malpractice. To do so, you should:

  • Monitor all medications prescribed;
  • Ask why each new medication is being prescribed;
  • Ask if there are any possible alternatives to the new prescription(s);
  • Ask if there is the possibility of adverse interactions between medications prescribed;
  • Obtain a second opinion if you feel uncomfortable with any answers you receive

In the unfortunate event that an elderly loved one suffers an adverse injury in a nursing home, or you yourself deal with the harmful effects of a prescription error, feel free to contact the attorneys at Decof, Barry, Mega & Quinn, P.C. to discuss your case. We have decades of experience reaching successful results for injured persons and their families in a broad range of personal injury and medical malpractice cases, including those involving prescription errors.

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