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Residents at The Palace Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Miami, Florida. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Loopholes regarding the use of antipsychotics in patients with schizophrenia and two other conditions have allowed these powerful drugs to proliferate in understaffed nursing homes, a New York Times investigation revealed.

Why it matters: Antipsychotics are so powerful that they have been referred to as "chemical straitjackets," and can pose increased risk of death for elderly patients with dementia.

The big picture: Because antipsychotics are so powerful and potentially dangerous, the federal government requires that nursing homes report how many of their patients are being treated with the powerful drugs, the Times noted.

  • However, the government does not require the drugs' use to be publicly reported for residents with schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome or Huntington’s disease, thereby understating the true rate of use of antipsychotics in nursing homes.
  • At least 21% of nursing home residents are on antipsychotic drugs, and the share of residents with a schizophrenia diagnosis has increased to 11% from less than 7% since 2012, per the Times.
  • Caring for elderly patients is time and labor intensive, and nursing homes with staffing shortages have higher rates of antipsychotic drug use, indicating that homes are using the drugs to "subdue patients and avoid having to hire extra staff," noted the Times.
  • Hiding high rates of antipsychotic drug use can help a nursing home's rating from the government.
  • “It is unacceptable for a facility to inappropriately classify a resident’s diagnosis to improve their performance measures,” Catherine Howden, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told the Times.

Of note: Cases of schizophrenia are nearly always diagnosed before the age of 40.

  • “People don’t just wake up with schizophrenia when they are elderly,” Michael Wasserman, a geriatrician and former nursing home executive, told the Times.

Go deeper

See inside the new cancer support home in Fayetteville

The Cancer Support Home at 488 E. Longview St. in Fayetteville Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re going deeper on Washington Regional’s new Cancer Support Home in Fayetteville.

Why it matters: The home is a free place to stay for people who live out of town but are receiving cancer treatment in the area.

  • This way, they don’t have to make several trips, which might be particularly taxing on someone going through chemotherapy or surgery. It also eliminates the need to pay for a hotel on top of medical bills.

The new building is a major upgrade from the former cancer support home on Woolsey Avenue.

Context: NWA serves cancer patients who live in the surrounding rural areas where treatment is more scarce. Patients who stay at the home are not necessarily Washington Regional patients. They typically travel from rural Arkansas, Missouri, or Oklahoma, says the home’s director of outreach services, Jason Kelly.

Details: The home has eight hotel-like rooms with bathrooms, a community kitchen, a room for counseling services and a sunroom with a patio.

  • The home also has a boutique complete with vanity mirrors and fitting rooms where patients can choose wigs, headscarves, mastectomy bras and prosthetic breasts — at no cost to them.
  • Kelly says he often sees patients meeting and talking with each other in the community kitchen.
  • Patients must have a support person, like a family member or friend, stay with them.

Flashback: The cancer support home previously operated inside a house that was built more than 90 years ago. It only had four bedrooms, including three upstairs that were accessible by only stairs — not ideal for people going through cancer treatment.

Of note: This month, the home will provide free breast exams to the public (with an appointment) this Saturday.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
17 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Key clean power provision likely won't survive in Dems' spending bill

A construction worker walks along a dirt road at the Avangrid Renewables La Joya wind farm in Encino, New Mexico, on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo: Cate Dingley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A pillar of Democrats' plans to speed deployment of zero-carbon electricity is likely to be cut from major spending and tax legislation they are struggling to move on a party-line vote, per multiple reports and a Capitol Hill aide.

Driving the news: The New York Times, citing anonymous congressional aides and lobbyists, reports that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has told the White House he "strongly opposes" the Clean Electricity Performance Program.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Fatal stabbing of British MP David Amess declared a terrorist incident

Police outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, England, on Oct. 15. Photo: John Keeble/Getty Images

Authorities have declared the death of David Amess a terrorist incident, hours after the Conservative Party lawmaker in the U.K. was fatally stabbed while meeting with local constituents in a church in eastern England on Friday.

The big picture: The Metropolitan Police has found "a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism."