Concern about overuse of antipsychotic medications and similar drugs in nursing homes, hospitals, and other health care facilities has prompted a sweeping proposal that would require Massachusetts facilities to inform patients, or their legal representatives, in writing of the medications’ risks, benefits, and alternatives.
This informed consent process would need to be repeated every three months if patients were taking these drugs long term, under a bill filed Friday by Representative Shaunna O’Connell, a Taunton Republican, and Senator Patricia Jehlen, a Somerville Democrat who has cochaired the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs.
O’Connell said their proposal targets the wide spectrum of medications known as psychoactives — including antipsychotics, antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, and sleep aids — because research has shown that when regulators crack down on one type of psychoactive drug, such as antipsychotics, facilities sometimes get around the rules by switching to another psychoactive drug.
A Boston Globe series last year found that nursing homes in Massachusetts and nationwide often prescribed antipsychotics to control difficult behavior in residents with dementia, though they can leave residents in a stupor.
The federal government has also warned that the drugs can have potentially fatal side effects in such people.
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