Authorities open investigation into pharma company allegedly targeting SNF residents with unnecessary drug

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Los Angeles authorities are investigating a pharmaceutical company making a drug that has been “aggressively” marketed to nursing homes, according to recent reports. Experts have questioned the safety of Nuedexta, which is meant to treat a disorder identified by uncontrollable laughing or crying.

The ailment, called pseudobulbar affect, affects less than 1% of people in the United States, CNN said in a recent report.

The number of Nuedexta pills manufactured by Avanir Pharmaceuticals grew 400% between 2012 and 2016, with more than half of those pills being delivered to long-term care facilities. CNN's report found some doctors have received thousands of dollars in exchange for promoting the drug.

"There is little to no medical literature to support the drug's use in nursing home residents [with dementia] — the population apparently being targeted,” Kathryn Locatell, M.D., a physician who assists the California Department of Justice in nursing home abuse cases, told CNN.

On Thursday CNN confirmed that Mike Feuer, Los Angeles city attorney, has started reaching out for information and public tips to determine whether Avanir broke any laws in marketing and prescribing Nuedexta.

"Those to whom this medication is being administered are as vulnerable as anyone can be. They rely on other people to make decisions for them," Feuer told CNN. "If there is a possibility they are being administered a medication not because it is in their best interest, but because it is in the financial interest of, say, the drug manufacturer, then it is important for us to intervene."

In response to CNN's original report, Avanir said pseudobulbar affect can be “misunderstood by patients and their families,” and that the company is “committed to providing information on [the disorder] and Nuedexta in ways that are consistent with the law, and the value and expectations of the doctors and patients we serve.”