December 06,2007

Sen. Grassley seeks thorough review of nursing home use of anti-psychotic drugs

WASHINGTON — Sen. Chuck Grassley has asked for a review by the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services into how anti-psychotic drugs are being used in nursing homes given questions of patient safety and taxpayer liability for the prescriptions, including off-label use of the drugs.

“Along with overall quality of care provided to a nursing home resident, it’s of tremendous concern that federal programs are paying for prescription drugs that could be unnecessary or potentially harmful for people living in nursing homes,” Grassley said. “Independent scrutiny needs to be given to the prescribing practices going on with this very vulnerable population and what’s motivating those practices.”

Grassley has also asked the federal agency that oversees nursing home quality to report on its response to nursing homes that misuse prescription drugs, and he has asked the manufacturers of three of the leading anti-psychotic drugs for information about their marketing efforts with regard to nursing home residents.
The text of Grassley’s five letters, sent this week following a front page news story in the Wall Street Journal, is below this news release.

Grassley has long worked to improve the quality of care provided in nursing homes. As Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging during the late 1990s, he conducted an oversight effort that resulted in the launch of the “Nursing Home Initiative” by the federal agency then known as the Health Care Financing Administration. The goal of the initiative was strong regulations and steadfast enforcement by federal and state officials. Since the launch of the Nursing Home Initiative, Grassley has frequently asked the GAO to provide status reports on the progress made in holding homes accountable for the quality of care provided to vulnerable residents.

Today, Grassley is Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance, which is responsible for Medicare and Medicaid oversight and legislation. Nearly 1.7 million elderly and disabled Americans live in 17,000 nursing home facilities across the country. Combined Medicare and Medicaid payments for nursing home services total an estimated $70 billion annually.