CMS debuts antipsychotic drug reduction program

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David Gifford, M.D.
David Gifford, M.D.
Federal officials unveiled a medication reduction initiative with an ambitious goal: trimming antipsychotic drug use among residents by 15% this year. 

Data on a nursing home's antipsychotic use also will start appearing on the Nursing Home Compare website, officials from the Centers from Medicare & Medicaid Services said Wednesday

CMS announced the Partnership to Improve Dementia Care initiative in a conference call. The program follows up on industry groups, consumer advocates and legislators' increased scrutiny on antipsychotics. The American Health Care Association said earlier this year that members should reduce off-label use of antipsychotics by 15% by the end of 2012, a “goal that is validated today by CMS and the partnership we have,” said David Gifford, M.D., AHCA Senior Vice President of Quality and Regulatory Affairs.

Part of the partnership with CMS will include the agency's training program called Hand in Hand, which will allows nursing home staff to learn more about person-centered and high quality care. It also is training state and federal surveyors on behavioral health. CMS said it will be promoting alternatives to medicating residents, such as consistent staff assignments, increased exercise or time outdoors, monitoring and managing acute and chronic pain, and planning activities.  The partnership is an extension of the “National Initiative to Improve Behavioral Health & Reduce the Use of Antipsychotic Medications in Nursing Home Residents” announced in March.

Additional training and alternatives are effective ways to reduce medication in nursing homes, says LeadingAge's Cheryl Phillips, M.D. “

"We hope our partnership with CMS will help transform nursing homes into centers of excellence for the care of people with advanced dementia and serve as the learning laboratory for other healthcare settings facing this issue," she said.

The call marked an unusual moment of public hand-joining for the nursing home industry, CMS and consumer advocates, with Claire E. Curry, the legal director of Civil Advocacy Program for the Legal Aid Justice Center among those applauding the program.

“Advocates are counting on CMS leadership … Consumer advocates commend CMS for its commitment to transparency,” she said.