Scientist: Americans Need to Stop Drugging the Elderly

Several news sources, including Russia Today and Business Insider pounced on a Danish scientist’s report in the British Journal of Medicine this week lambasting the drug industry:

I have written previously that there has been heavy marketing and widespread crime committed by drug companies, including fraud, illegal promotion, and corruption of psychiatrists. In the USA, psychiatrists receive more money from the drug industry than any other specialty. — Peter C Gøtzsche, Nordic Cochrane Centre

At first glimpse, it’s hard to see how this relates to American politics. But when we consider that the Medicare/Medicaid budget makes up close to one-fourth of the federal budget, any medical news should makes us think about political ramifications.

This article is actually a reprint; the study was originally published in 2014 in The Lancet journal of psychiatry. In the study, Gøtzsche claims that we are over-medicating people, especially the young and old — with catastrophic effects.

Gøtzsche makes 3 major claims in his report:

  1. The elderly on psychotropic medications have a 3.6% higher mortality rate than those not on the same drugs;
  2. The incident of falls — probably the most expensive, preventable accidents in nursing facilities — is higher; and
  3. The elderly are often given these medicines solely for the convenience of caregivers (to calm them, sedate them, etc.).

The AARP wholeheartedly agrees with his last point, claiming that 20% of nursing home patients are unnecessarily given psychotropic medications, often as a form of chemical restraint.

This overuse of medications is almost exclusively on the taxpayer’s dime — 78% of nursing home patients are solely Medicare/Medicaid patients.

The government should not be in the business of establishing so-called “death panels,” but at some point the government must intervene when doctors, caregivers, and drug companies are all too willing to drug the most vulnerable Americans out of convenience and profit.

There is a lot of blame to be shared on this problem, but at some point, standards of care need to be established that ensure that those getting these expensive medications truly need them — and that it’s not just for the convenience of the caregivers or lining the pockets of Big Pharma and doctors.

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