Press Releases

Kuster, Smith, Waters Introduce Legislation to Enhance Alzheimer’s Care

Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH), Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) have introduced the Understanding Appropriate Alzheimer’s Care Act. This bipartisan legislation would require the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) to implement a study on antipsychotic prescribing practices in non-nursing home settings for individuals with Alzheimer’s.

Antipsychotic medications are typically used to treat individuals with illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They are sometimes prescribed to dementia patients to control their behavior. The side effects of prescribing these drugs for dementia patients are so severe, including chest infection, stroke, and death, that the Food and Drug Administration includes a black box warning to alert doctors and patients of the serious risks. Despite these risks, in 2012 over 170,000 Medicare recipients living outside of nursing homes were prescribed these drugs.  

CMS collects data on prescribing rates in nursing home settings, but there is currently no data gathered on prescribing practices in non-nursing home settings. Reps Kuster, Smith, and Water’s bill would remedy this and provide Alzheimer’s patients, caregivers, doctors, and lawmakers with the information they need to reduce inappropriate use of these medications and improve overall care.

“I know too well how difficult it can be to care for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “This legislation will help us understand why so many Americans are being prescribed potentially dangerous anti-psychotics and what steps we can take to ensure they are receiving the best treatment possible. I look forward to working with my colleagues to improve Alzheimer’s care for families in New Hampshire and across the country.”

“It is very tragic and frightening for Alzheimer’s patients to lose themselves and their bearings gradually—they are often aware and it is painful for them and their families who are robbed of the person they know and love,” said Congressman Smith. “As co-chair of the Alzheimer’s Caucus, I have insisted that all current treatments for Alzheimer’s, including the prescription of antipsychotic medications which can have serious side effects, truly help the patient, do not cause any further harm and do not take a loss of memory for granted.  This legislation will help investigate the full scope of these prescription drugs and will help ensure that all patients with Alzheimer’s and related dementias receive the best and most careful treatment.”
“As the Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce this important bill to require a study of the use of antipsychotic medications for Alzheimer’s patients in non-nursing home settings,” Congresswoman Waters. “This study will help to determine whether Alzheimer’s patients are receiving the best possible medical care and being prescribed medications that are appropriate to their needs.”

"On behalf of the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's and their 16 million caregivers, we thank Rep. Kuster for introducing this important bill," said Robert Egge, Alzheimer's Association chief public policy officer and Alzheimer's Impact Movement (AIM) executive director. "Alzheimer's is a devastating disease with unique challenges for both the individual and the caregiver, and we applaud her work to improve the lives of all affected by Alzheimer's."