Big Pharma’s New Target: Nursing Homes

The pill the nurse was trying to get my mother to take could have killed her.

My mom was post-surgery and waking up in her hospital room. The nurses were bringing her medication to take that night, and my mom didn’t recognize all of the pills.

The nurse had a blue round one, an oblong white one with numbers on the side, and only one that looked familiar to my mom. Something wasn’t right.

But when she questioned the pills, the nurse got annoyed and refused to bring the packaging so my mother could see what the medication was – the maker, the name, and the milligrams. So she didn’t take the pills.

It turns out, they were the wrong drugs. Neither the blue nor the white pills were medications she’d ever had, and they weren’t meds to “try” right after surgery. Those medications were potent by themselves, and mixed together, they can kill some post-surgical patients.

That’s why I warn you to always scrutinize the pills you’re given. And if you have a loved one who might have dementia, make sure you’re there and know exactly what they are taking.

Under no circumstances should you back down if you think the staff is wrong. Ask for the head nurse or even the doctor to come and explain what medications you’re taking and why. The “why” is the most important piece – you need to understand the purpose for each and every medication – because otherwise you’re dependent on the staff to get it right. And as I’ve told you, the systems aren’t in place to prevent these errors.

We’ve written before about the dangers of medication errors… mistakes that kill about 7,000 people every year. But there’s another danger lurking in long-term care homes…

I’m talking about folks purposefully giving drugs to the elderly without proper safety and efficacy studies.

A new investigative report from CNN uncovered the problems with a pill making the rounds in nursing homes.

The drug is Nuedexta. It treats a rare condition called pseudobulbar affect (“PBA”). About 1% of Americans have PBA, typically those with multiple sclerosis or ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Here’s the thing… more than half of all Nuedexta pills wind up in long-term care homes. More often than not, docs prescribe them for other off-label uses. They claim it will help with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and prescribe it liberally to older folks in nursing care facilities. Specifically, they say it will alleviate agitation.

We took a look at the handful of studies out there and they aren’t promising. One randomized control trial used a patented study design, meaning researchers can’t duplicate the study easily. Since repetition is a key part of the scientific research process, this raises serious concerns.

It also showed that those on the drug had a much higher risk of dizziness and falls. That’s extremely dangerous for folks more likely to die from complications of a fall.

There are also no long-term studies. The one mentioned above was only 10 days in length.

In fact, about 1,000 voluntary reports of adverse events appear in the FDA file since the drug hit the market in 2011. They brought to focus the problems with dizziness, falls, and even coma and death.

Even scarier… these docs often receive financial compensation from the drug manufacturers.

Take a look at this from CNN’s report:

In a Los Angeles nursing home last year, regulators found that more than a quarter of its residents – 46 of 162 – had been placed on Nuedexta, noting that a facility psychiatrist had given a talk about the drug to employees. This psychiatrist was a paid speaker for Avanir.

Avanir, you guessed it, manufactures Nuedexta.

This is exactly why, if your parent has dementia, someone needs to step in as the patient advocate. Part of that entails knowing exactly what pills they’re taking. Staying on top of information like this will go a long way to protecting the health of our older family members.

Also, you can help reduce agitation with things like simple routines, exercise, and stress relief. Lavender oil, for instance, shows promise for reducing agitation in severe cases of dementia without the troubling side effects.

What We’re Reading…

Here’s to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
October 18, 2017