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 Eleven States Hit CMS Targets For Cutting Back On Antipsychotics

​Nursing home staff reduced the improper use of antipsychotic drugs for those suffering from dementia by more than 9 percent in the first part of 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Tuesday.

Overall, about 30,000 residents in skilled nursing centers are off the harmful medicines compared with two years ago, CMS said in releasing its first quarter data on antipsychotic drug use for dementia patients.

Tuesday’s news was unqualifiedly good, but CMS officials cautioned that much more needs to be done for such a vulnerable population. “We will continue to work with clinicians, caregivers, and communities to improve care and eliminate harm for people living with dementia,” CMS Chief Medical Officer Patrick Conway said in a news release.

The federal data released Tuesday, from the first quarter of 2013, jibes with earlier findings by the American Health Care Association (AHCA), which has set its own goals for reducing improper antipsychotic use.

Member homes slashed their off-label use of antipsychotics by 7 percent from 2012-13, the association said earlier this year, and nearly two-fifths of association homes had already reduced the use of antipsychotics by 15 percent.

AHCA is expected to release its own first quarter data later Tuesday. But David Gifford, the association’s senior vice president for quality and regulatory affairs, said he is impressed with how seriously his profession is taking the challenge.

“Skilled nursing care centers nationwide—and specifically AHCA members—have demonstrated their dedication to addressing this issue head on,” he said. “There is more work to be done, and the long term care profession remains focused on this effort to ensure our residents enjoy the highest quality of care and quality of life.”

In Tuesday's release, CMS found that 11 states have reached or exceeded federal goals for cutting back on the improper use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes.

The states were: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vermont.

Last year, CMS launched its own initiative to cut back on the use of antipsychotic drugs for those living with dementia.

AHCA is an eager partner, but experts warn that the widespread problems of simply giving meds to difficult patients—nearly one in five nursing home residents were given excessive daily doses in 2010—don’t just lie with caregivers. Nearly three-quarters of residents who are given antipsychotic medications for dementia came into nursing homes already on the meds, and the families—and their doctors—aren’t always keen on taking the patients off the drugs.

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