Government agency calls off effort to assess antipsychotic use in nursing homes, watchdog group reports

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A government investigation into nursing homes' antipsychotic prescribing practices will not move forward due to budget and staff cuts, according to nonprofit investigative news organization The Center for Public Integrity.

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General planned to assess how many nursing home residents receive antipsychotic medications; which antipsychotics are most commonly administered; and how well nursing homes are complying with federal requirements around unnecessary drug use. OIG described the project in its 2013 work plan.

The antipsychotic initiative is one of several healthcare-related projects that OIG plans to suspend, according to a document reportedly obtained by The Center for Public Integrity.

The change would reduce oversight. At the same time, it's believed new Affordable Care Act initiatives, such as electronic health exchanges, could open up new avenues for fraud.

Automatic government spending cuts known as the sequester are partly responsible for the budget crunch at OIG, but expiring appropriations bills and other cuts are also to blame, CPI reported.

Even without the government investigation, providers are actively evaluating antipsychotic use and trying to reduce its prevalence as part of the American Health Care Association's Quality Initiative. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also adopted these goals. Providers missed the 15% reduction goal for 2012, but the benchmark has been renewed for 2013.