Nursing Homes: Antipsychotic Drugs Out, Nuedexta In?

By Long Beach Elder Abuse Attorney on June 3, 2019

Woman walking down a stairwayDo you believe your loved one was carelessly prescribed Nuedexta, and that the drug has caused harm or trauma as a result? This medication, used to treat pseudobulbar affect (PBA), has had a troubled history. In some cases, the drug seems to be prescribed when nursing home staff want to use it essentially as a chemical restraint – a way of controlling their patients’ moods. In other cases, doctors have taken kickbacks to prescribe Nuedexta, which led to people taking the medication when they didn’t need it.

If you have any questions about this drug or medication error cases, please call attorney Travis Siegel’s law firm at 562-645-4145. From our Tustin, CA, law firm, we advocate passionately on behalf of nursing home residents from across the state.

Common Nuedexta Injury Claims

This medication treats the symptoms of PBA, a condition marked by uncontrollable episodes of laughing or crying. These episodes of apparent emotion are typically incongruous with the person’s actual mood at the time. Living with PBA can be really difficult and embarrassing. It tends to be associated with brain or nerve conditions, such as a traumatic brain injury, ALS or multiple sclerosis.

The drug was FDA approved, and tested in clinical trials, specifically for patients with ALS and MS. In practice, Nuedexta also gets prescribed to elderly men and women living with dementia or Parkinson’s disease. When the medication is unnecessary, it may be dangerous because of the following side effects:

All of these side effects can be serious, especially when it comes to elderly men and women. In advanced age, a bout of serious diarrhea (and resulting dehydration) or a bad fall can be deadly. That is one of the reasons why we trust their doctors to prescribe them only those medications that will improve their well-being and quality of life, not put them at unnecessary risk that outweighs the benefits.

We already know that Nuedexta increases the risk of falls – by twice as much, CNN found – and falls are much more serious for nursing home residents than PBA can be. Nuedexta also may react badly with other medications.

MAOIs are drugs sometimes used to treat mental illnesses, such as depression. Nuedexta, when mixed with any of these drugs, can create a potentially lethal reaction – serotonin syndrome. In addition, the quinidine in Nuedexta can alter the patient’s heart rate dramatically if he or she is already taking a quinidine, or a similar-based medication. Over-the-counter cough medicines are also now dangerous; and believe it or not, grapefruit juice also has an effect on Nuedexta.

If you believe your loved one was put at risk and didn’t really need Nuedexta, you may have a case. Mr. Siegel has extensive experience with claims involving residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. He can determine whether someone should be held responsible.

Nuedexta’s Background

Nuedexta, manufactured by Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is composed of the drugs dextromethorphan and quinidine. Dextromethorphan, which affects signals in the brain, is mainly used as a cough suppressant, and quinidine produces changes in heart rhythm. (People with a history of heart problems should not be given Nuedexta.)

Avanir has targeted Alzheimer’s patients with aggressive marketing. It claims that PBA is an under-diagnosed but common condition in people with dementia (though experts say only 1% of the U.S. population has PBA), and makes money by “expanding the drug’s use among elderly patients…and high-volume prescribing and advocacy efforts by doctors receiving payments from the company,” as a CNN investigation found.

However, “when Nuedexta hit the market in 2011, doctors, nurses and family members of patients began reporting symptoms such as rashes, dizziness, falls, coma, and even death.”

Having dementia does not automatically mean that a person has PBA, and Nuedexta should only be prescribed for specific people who suffer from PBA. Nursing homes and other assisted living facilities tend to overmedicate “difficult” patients like dementia patients in an attempt to keep them quiet and make up for understaffing.

Whether through carelessness or laziness, the over-prescription of Nuedexta can have devastating consequences on the residents’ quality of life. There are alternative treatments available, and drugging someone is the wrong solution to this problem.

Call Siegel Law If You Think You Have a Case

If you believe your elderly loved one has been wrongfully harmed by a Nuedexta prescription, call now to find out how you can pursue justice and compensation. Experienced Tustin nursing home abuse attorney Travis Siegel provides a complimentary consultation so you can find out what your options are. Call our law firm at 562-645-4145. We proudly advocate for families and their elderly loved ones across the state, including families from Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Irvine and Santa Ana, CA.

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Posted in: Nursing Home Abuse


Call Travis and his team at (562) 645-4145 or send us an email for a free consultation.