Push underway to cut drugs for dementia patients

By MATT SEDENSKY | September 14, 2011 | 2:35 PM EDT

Nursing homes around the country are trying to reduce their use of powerful antipsychotic drugs and some say they're seeing remarkable effects.

In some facilities, caretakers say patients who were reclusive, sedated and detached have gotten a new lease on life after being transitioned off the drugs.

Hundreds of thousands of elderly nursing home patients remain on antipsychotics, though, because there are no drug alternatives for behavioral problems linked to dementia.

Antipsychotics themselves aren't FDA-approved for the treatment of dementia-related behavioral issues, but are widely used off-label for that purpose. The FDA's 2005 warning that they could increase the risk of death in dementia patients has led to a downturn in their usage.