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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Abbott Pharmaceuticals Alleged to Have Promoted Depakote as a Chemical Restraint

Abbott Pharmaceuticals manufactures a medicine called Depakote. This drug was approved by the FDA to treat mild seizures, manic bipolar disorder, and certain types of migraines. However, in a recent lawsuit, several Abbott employees allege that Abbott illegally promoted its drugs for other uses not approved by the FDA. Specifically these employees alleged that Abbott encouraged doctors to prescribe Depakote to nursing home patients as a chemical sedative to combat aggression associated with dementia. This is known as a "chemical restraint", a drug used to subdue a patient. It is further alleged that Abbott gave kickbacks to doctors who were willing to promote Depakote for these improper or “off-label” uses, and even trained those doctors to label their diagnoses in a certain way so that Depakote appeared to be a justified prescription.

This is just one of many examples in which drug manufacturers have been accused of encouraging doctors to prescribe drugs for “off-label” purposes in order to try to exploit nursing home residents (and their Medicaid benefits) at the expense of the patients’ welfare. In light of these allegations Illinois has created the Nursing Home Safety Task Force to try to combat the improper use of chemical restraints. In its final report, the task force acknowledges that the current practice of allowing “off-label” prescriptions to be administered in the sole discretion of nursing home staff is problematic has led to numerous complaints. In response, the Task Force specifically called for the State to “[d]evelop a policy to assure proper use of psychotropic drugs for people with serious mental illness and dementia.”

The attorneys at Keating Law Offices support the Task Force’s recommendations. The improper and indiscriminate use of chemical restraints is a dangerous practice that not only endangers the safety of nursing home residents but also violates their rights under the
Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. The personal injury attorneys at Keating Legal are here to fight for those rights; if you are concerned that a friend or loves one is being prescribe improper or excessive medication, or has been injured as a result of improper chemical restraint please contact Illinois Nursing Home Attorney Mike Keating at 312-208-7702 or MKeating@KeatingLegal.com. All initial consultations are confidential and free.

The Use of "Chemical Restraints" in Nursing Homes

It is an unfortunate reality that due to some medical conditions nursing home residents can become aggressive and pose a threat to other residents, staff and even themselves. Nursing homes and doctors use a number of interventions, procedures and devices used to deal with a problem, to deal with these situations. One controversial intervention is the use of restraints. Traditionally restraints were physical ones such as belts, safety-bars, and straight-jackets used to secure a resident in a non-threatening position.

However, the use of "chemical restraints" has became widespread. "Chemical restraints" are not physical, rather it is the use of anti-seizure, anti-psychotic, and sedative drugs to subdue a resident.
The ease of use of prescription drugs as chemical restraints creates the potential for widespread abuse. Not only is the unwarranted administration of prescription drugs harder to detect than the improper use of physical restraints, but when used incorrectly chemical restraints have greater potential to cause serious injuries and in some cases even death.

Federal Laws prohibit the use of inappropriate chemical restraints on nursing home patients unless it is truly necessary to treat a medial condition.
However, these very laws have often failed to adequately protect nursing home patients because they not mandate sufficient practical regulations for those who actually come into contact with nursing home patients, and unfortunately, the pattern of overuse of chemical restraints is still widespread.

The laws do not properly regulate the doctors who prescribe drugs to nursing home patients. Before a new drug is introduced into the marketplace, the Food and Drug Administration undertakes clinical tests to determine whether that drug is safe. Based upon these clinical trials, the FDA then decides whether to approve that drug, and specifically what specific conditions it should be used for. Under current law, drug manufactures can neither promote any unapproved uses nor include those uses in any of the instructions. However, the laws do not prevent doctors from prescribing the drug for these unapproved uses, in fact that practice (known as “off-label” prescription) is common. Second, the laws do not adequately supervise the nursing home staff. So long as a doctor has given a valid prescription, nursing home staff can administer the drug without getting further approval from either the doctor, and in some cases the patient. This lack of oversight creates a real potential for the abuse of nursing homes residents.

If you have any questions regarding this post or an issue involving Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect, please contact Illinois Nursing Home Attorney Mike Keating at 312-208-7702 or MKeating@KeatingLegal.com. All initial consultations are confidential and free.

Resident With Dementia Dies After Wandering Away from Midwest Rehab in Belleville

The Belleville News Democrat is reporting that Illinois Department of Public Health investigators are looking into the death of 75-year old Aubrey Giles. Mr. Giles was a resident at Midwest Rehabilitation and Respiratory Care in Belleville, IL. Mr. Giles was a resident because he required nursing care and supervision due to suffering from dementia and heart disease.

Mr. Giles wandered away from the nursing home on Saturday and his body was found Monday morning in a creek approximately one block from the nursing home. According to the report, over 4 hours passed between the time he went missing and the nursing home reporting his absence from the home.

Incidents such as these are referred to as "elopement" and residents who suffer from dementia, such as Mr. Giles, are often referred to as "wanderers." These are specific terms used in the nursing community. Nursing homes have a duty to properly assess patients for risk of elopement. In addition, nursing homes have the duty to implement "interventions" such as increased levels of supervision, alarms, video cameras and secured doors to prevent situations such as this tragic one involving Mr. Giles from occurring.

The decision to place a loved one in a nursing home is often one of the most difficult decisions a family faces. The decision often turns on the belief that the nursing home will be able to provide superior levels of nursing care and supervision than the family can provide. Unfortunately, when the nursing homes do not provide superior levels of nursing care and supervision, tragic events like this one take place.

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act provides that if a resident of a nursing home is injured or killed as a result of the negligence of the nursing home, then the nursing home is responsible for the damages suffered by the resident or their family. If you have any questions regarding this post or an issue involving Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect, please contact Illinois Nursing Home Attorney Mike Keating at 312-239-6787 or MKeating@KeatingLegal.com. All initial consultations are confidential and free.