April 07,2020

Congressional Policy Leaders Seek Review of Psychotropic Prescription Use in Nursing Homes

Washington A group of policy leaders in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are seeking an inspector general review of the use of psychotropic and antipsychotic drugs in nursing facilities across the United States. The request rises out of decades-old concerns that there are insufficient safeguards in place to protect against the unnecessary or inappropriate prescription of these drugs.
Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) of the Senate Finance Committee, Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) jointly submitted the request to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG).
“Policymakers and advocates have for decades voiced concerns about whether adequate safeguards are in place to protect against unnecessary antipsychotic drug use in nursing homes that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs,” the lawmakers wrote. “...evidence fueled widespread concerns about the use of these powerful drugs as inappropriate chemical restraints for nursing home residents whose behavior was disruptive or challenging to manage, many of whom have dementia.”
The last examination of this topic, a 2011 HHS OIG report that followed a request from Grassley, indicated that 14 percent of American nursing home residents had Medicare claims for these drugs to treat behavioral symptoms commonly associated with dementia. It also found that at least half the Medicare claims for these drugs were erroneous, leading to $116 million in inappropriate Medicare reimbursements.
The group of lawmakers is requesting a follow-up study to the 2011 inspector general review to re-examine the use of psychotropic drugs in nursing homes, as well as examine the efficacy of federal responses to concerns about inappropriate use of these drugs and reimbursements using taxpayer dollars.
The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing that covered these concerns in November of 2019. Grassley has long raised concerns of the use of psychotropic drugs in nursing homes, including several oversight letters dating back to 2007.
The letter from Grassley, Wyden, Neal, Brady and Blumenthal to HHS OIG can be found HERE.