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Globe reporters win Press Club awards

Two Boston Globe reporters received a journalism award from the National Press Club for a series on the overprescribing of antipsychotic medications in nursing homes.

Kay Lazar and Matt Carroll won the Joseph D. Ryle Award for Excellence in Writing on the Problems of Geriatrics.

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“This report exposes a significant, but largely hidden problem,” said judges of the competition. “Patients and their families don’t realize the dangers to the patient being drugged.”

The investigative series was titled, “A Rampant Prescription, a Hidden Peril,” and exposed nursing homes’ use of drugs to sedate residents. Lazar and Carroll found that over a large span of time the nursing homes would use antipsychotic drugs on patients, particularly those suffering from dementia, who were vulnerable to lethal side effects of the medications.

Lazar and Carroll gathered information using Freedom of Information Act requests. The federal data they collected was from thousands of nursing homes across the nation; the data had been collected over a number of years but was not previously available to the public.

“Sophisticated data analysis contained in the reports enabled readers to learn about use of these drugs in their local nursing homes. The report not only shows where the drugs are abused, it also shows what happens in a nursing home where the patients are not over-medicated,” said judges.

The series found that in 2010 alone, 185,00 residents of nursing homes in the United States had received antipsychotics contrary to recommendations from federal nursing home regulators.

Melissa can be reached at melissa.hanson@globe.comor on Twitter @Melissa__Hanson.

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