Alleged overuse of antipsych drugs leads to federal case

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A controversial decision could be a "nightmare" for the government, a legal expert says.
A controversial decision could be a "nightmare" for the government, a legal expert says.

A pair of California nursing homes are facing federal False Claims Act charges for allegedly overmedicating residents with antipsychotics and other drugs.

The case could have widespread implications for other providers dealing with complex antipsychotics issues around the country.

The accused nursing facilities routinely gave their residents antipsychotics and other drugs too freely, according to charges announced by the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. The providers did so “for the convenience of management,” the OIG said.

Authorities traced the alleged overmedication practices back to 2007 through 2012 at Country Villa Watsonville East Nursing Center and Country Villa Watsonville West Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The former is an 87-bed facility; the latter has 95 beds. 

(In April, they were renamed Watsonville Nursing Center and Watsonville Post-Acute Care Center, respectively.)

The federal complaint tells of one resident who entered Country Villa West in 2009 and was given the antipsychotics Haldol and Risperdal — without his family's consent or doctor's orders for them. He was found to have heart failure symptoms after being taken to the hospital less than two weeks later. He also had developed an infected pressure ulcer and sepsis.

The court filing calls it just one example of “non-existent, grossly inadequate, materially substandard, and/or worthless services” for which the nursing homes billed Medicare and Medicaid, in violation of the False Claims Act.

Management company Arba Group, a defendant, called the accusations “baseless.”

 “We attempted to voluntarily present evidence to the government, to establish this reality, but they declined to receive this evidence,” its prepared statement continued.