Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Antipsychotics and the Elderly

Much of the focus of Labeling theorists and other critics of the pharmaceutical-industrial complex is on the use of psychotropics in children. This article suggests that the use of these drugs on our elderly, particularly those who have been institutionalized, is far worse.

The use of antipsychotic drugs to tamp down the agitation, combative behavior and outbursts of dementia patients has soared, especially in the elderly. Sales of newer antipsychotics like Risperdal, Seroquel and Zyprexa totaled $13.1 billion in 2007, up from $4 billion in 2000, according to IMS Health, a health care information company.

Part of this increase can be traced to prescriptions in nursing homes. Researchers estimate that about a third of all nursing home patients have been given antipsychotic drugs.

The increases continue despite a drumbeat of bad publicity. A 2006 study of Alzheimer’s patients found that for most patients, antipsychotics provided no significant improvement over placebos in treating aggression and delusions.

In 2005, the Food and Drug Administration ordered that the newer drugs carry a “black box” label warning of an increased risk of death. Last week, the F.D.A. required a similar warning on the labels of older antipsychotics.

The agency has not approved marketing of these drugs for older people with dementia, but they are commonly prescribed to these patients “off label.” Several states are suing the top sellers of antipsychotics on charges of false and misleading marketing.

As the Labeling theorists argue, using these kinds of high-powered antipsychotic medications isn't for the benefit of the patient...it's about the social control of the patient. As with rowdy children at home or in school, it's much easier to "control" so-called mentally ill behavior in individuals via chemical shackles than it is to actually help, talk to, or scientifically determine the causes of this behavior in these patients.

While it's nice to see states actively pursuing Big Pharma for this kind of abuse, one has to wonder if even states will be able (or willing) to place real curbs on the psychiatric-industrial complex.

No comments: