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A drug meant to treat a rare condition affecting less than one percent of the population is being pushed by drug companies and doctors for use with elderly patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, according to a recent CNN investigation.
According to the CNN investigation, sales of a drug called Nuedexta have skyrocketed by 400 percent in five years, fueled by an aggressive marketing campaign focused on seniors living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
However, the CNN investigation revealed that doctors who prescribe Nuedexta are receiving lucrative perks from drug companies. Further, says the report, safety concerns about patients taking Nuedexta have arisen, including an increased risk of falling while on the drug.
According to the report, Nuedexta may be being used to corral unruly elderly patients in nursing homes and not for any legitimate medical reason.
Disturbingly, CNN investigators found that the federal government is paying for the huge increase in use of this drug through Medicare.
CNN reports that patient advocates are sounding the alarm when it comes to pushing the drug onto the elderly in nursing homes. They point to reports of increased dizziness, falls, and even comas as well as rashes suffered by elderly patients put on Nuedexta.
Avanir Pharmaceuticals manufactures and produces the drug. Originally, Nuedexta was developed to treat pseudobulbar affect (PBA), a condition leading to sudden, uncontrollable crying or laughing. PBA is associated with multiple sclerosis or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
According to the CNN investigation, Avanir began targeting elderly patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s despite a lack of research on the side effects of the drug on that population. In fact, the prescribing information from the drug notes that fact, say CNN reporters.
Further, CNN reports that in the one study conducted by the drug maker about the effects of Nuedexta on the elderly, the incidence of falls doubled for those taking the drug. Falls can be catastrophic and even life ending for the elderly.
Avanir maintains that Nuedexta can help those with neurological disorders also experiencing PBA. In an email to CNN, the company asserted that PBA is a misunderstood disorder and can affect 40 percent of people suffering from dementia.
However, notes the CNN report, the assertion that 40 percent of dementia patients suffer from PBA has been roundly rejected by medical experts. In fact, dementia researchers maintain that only about five percent of all dementia patients also suffer from PBA.
According to the CNN investigation, there have been multiple cases of state regulators questioning the excessive use of Nuedexta in nursing homes. In some cases, Avanir paid physicians to recommend the drug to nursing home employees who were encouraged to justify the use of Nuedexta to control residents’ behavior.
Physicians have been targeted with money, meals, and other items by the drug maker. In total, physicians received nearly $14 million from Avanir and its parent company between 2013 and 2016.
CNN revealed that of the physicians who prescribed Nuedexta, about half of them had received some type of perk from the drug maker. While it is legal for a drug company to pay a physician for drug promotion, it is illegal for a company to offer a kickback in exchange for prescribing the drug.
If you are concerned about a loved one who has been prescribed Nuedexta while in a nursing home, contact the attorneys at McDonald Worley to help investigate potential nursing home abuse. The case evaluation is free.