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Ontario nursing homes give high-risk medications to dementia patients

A new investigation by The Toronto Star reveals a troubling trend at Ontario's long-term care facilities

When Kathleen Wynne began serving at Ontario's Premier, she dumped some high-profile Dalton McGuinty-era ministers when selecting her new cabinet.

One of those minister was Etobicoke-Centre's Donna Cansfield.

Since then, Cansfield has been a backbench Liberal and for months she has been digging for data about dangerous anti-psychotic medications that are routinely given to dementia patients at Ontario Nursing homes.  

These are drugs that increase the risk of death of dementia patients by 60 percent.

Cansfield says she took this to Premier Wynne and Health Minister Deb Mathews but she has seen no action on it so she turned over her findings to the Toronto Star.  

The paper's report says many of Ontario's nursing homes use about a dozen different drugs to calm down or restrain seniors with dementia who might sometimes might sometimes wander or become aggressive or violent.

The medications in question include olanzapine and quetiapine -- none of which have Health Canada approval for such use.

Families of some patients complain that they are not being made aware of what their loved ones are being prescribed and what risks are involved.

While it is not it is not against the law for doctors to prescribe these anti-psychotic medications, the question is whether it is the best solution.

The numbers are staggering:

Roughly half of the residents at 40 Ontario long-term care homes are on at least one of the drugs.

About a third of patients are taking them at about 300 other homes.

Some care facility operators place the blame on a shortage of skilled nurses.

Cansfield is calling on the provincial government to investigate.

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