Antipsychotic drugs have helped many people with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. But for older people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, they can be deadly. The Food and Drug Administration has given these drugs a black box warning, saying they can increase the risk of heart failure, infections and death. Yet almost 300,000 nursing home residents still get them.
“ There are many near misses, whether it's hospitals or nursing homes, where medication might be given that's not needed and doesn't cause permanent harm. We view that as a learning opportunity.
- Dr. Patrick Conway, chief medical officer, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
So in 2012, the federal government started a campaign to get nursing homes to reduce their use of these drugs. But an NPR analysis of government data shows that the government rarely penalizes nursing homes when they don't get with the program.
Take Texas for example. More than a quarter of nursing home residents there still get antipsychotic drugs. Since the beginning of the federal initiative, the nationwide average has dropped below 20 percent. That puts Texas in last place compared with other states and the District of Columbia.
So Texas is playing catch-up. The state recently conducted a series of trainings to teach nursing home employees that...