Harmful Off-Label Drug Targets Nursing Home Residents with Dementia

andres-de-armas-103880-copy-300x200If you have an elderly loved one at a nursing home in Rancho Bernardo or elsewhere in the San Diego area, it is important to learn more about recent off-label use of a drug that could be causing serious harm. According to a recent report from CNN News, a medication designed to treat a disorder that is commonly associated with individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) is now being used on elderly patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. To be clear, this is off-label use, and the CNN News report suggests that it is not being done for the right reasons. In fact, use of the drug could rise to the level of nursing home abuse.

Off-Label Use of Nuedexta Presents Risks to Nursing Home Patients

What is off-label drug use? As an article in U.S. News & World Report explains, off-label drug use can mean one of a couple of different things. Sometimes “it involves taking a drug for a different medical condition than it’s meant for.” In other situations, the term can mean “taking drugs in non-approved dosage or form.”

The drug that is being used on elderly adults with dementia is called Nuedexta. It was designed to treat pseudobulbar affect (PBA), which is a “disorder marked by sudden and uncontrollable laughing or crying,” and it affects less than 1% of all Americans. Why is it being used among seniors in nursing homes? According to the report, the financial success of the drug “is being propelled by a sales force focused on expanding the drug’s use among elderly patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and high-volume prescribing and advocacy efforts by doctors receiving payments from the company.”

In other words, the report alleges that doctors are receiving incentives from the drug maker to expand the use of Nuedexta when the medication is not necessarily beneficial to seniors who are taking it. As such, elderly nursing home residents are taking the drug for a different medical condition than what it was designed to treat—and what it has been FDA-approved to treat. The U.S. News & World Report article reminds us that this is not the only example of off-label drug use among elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Indeed, numerous other drugs, most notably antipsychotic drugs, have been prescribed to seniors and have caused serious harm.

Nuedexta Sales and Nursing Homes

How widespread is the off-label use of Nuedexta among the elderly? Over the last five years, more than 50% of all Nuedexta sales have been to long-term care facilities, according to the CNN News report, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

What are the risks to seniors? One study suggests that patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s and are taking Nuedexta suffer fall-related injuries “at more than twice the rate as those on a placebo.”

As one geriatric physician explained, “there is no medical literature to support the drug’s use in nursing home residents (with dementia).” In some cases, there are allegations that nursing home patients have been improperly diagnosed with PBA simply to justify the use of the drug.

Discuss Your Concerns with a Rancho Bernardo Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

Do you have concerns about your elderly loved one’s safety in a nursing home? You should discuss your concerns with a Rancho Bernardo nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm to learn more about how we can assist with your case.

See Related Blog Posts:

Serious Nursing Home Abuse Cases May Go Unreported

Restraining Orders in San Marcos Nursing Home Abuse Cases

(image courtesy of Andres de Armas)