Grassley Investigates Antipsychotic Marketing to Nursing Homes

December 12, 2007

Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is asking four drug companies how they market antipsychotic drugs to nursing home residents as part of a review on how the drugs are used in the facilities.

Nearly 21 percent of nursing home residents receive antipsychotic drugs off-label, Grassley said, citing a Wall Street Journal article. Using the drugs off-label is an inappropriate use of taxpayer money through the Medicare and Medicaid programs, as well as a safety concern, he added.

Atypical antipsychotics, including AstraZeneca’s Seroquel (quetiapine fumarate), Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa (olanzapine) and Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) Risperdal (risperidone), have a black box warning on their labeling saying the drugs are associated with an increased risk of death in elderly patients with dementia.

Grassley wrote to AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Janssen and J&J asking for information on how the companies market their antipsychotic drugs to nursing homes. He also asked HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson to investigate how antipsychotic drugs are used in nursing homes.

A copy of Grassley’s letters can be seen at finance.senate.gov/press/Gpress/2007/prg120607.pdf.