The News Tribune
M. ALEXANDER OTTO
Violence has been a growing problem at Western State Hospital for years.
If present trends continue, one in four of the Lakewood mental hospital’s more than 1,700 workers can expect to be assaulted by a patient in 2007, according to the state Department of Labor and Industries.
For years, hospital administrators have blamed the violence on familiar causes: not enough staff members, not enough money and increased societal violence that leads to the admission of more-violent patients. But they don’t have the data to back up those assertions.
A News Tribune analysis of drug-prescribing trends at Western since 1999 finds another possible factor: Western is giving more patients psychiatric drugs with side effects that can include extreme agitation and aggression.
The drugs include newer antidepressants and newer anti-psychotics dubbed atypical anti-psychotics.
The newer drugs, which are expensive compared with older, generic alternatives, have been heavily promoted at the hospital by the pharmaceutical companies that make them. Sales representatives for those companies have logged about 1,200 visits to Western since late 2003, when administrators began tracking their activity.
Concerned about their influence on prescribing patterns, the hospital in March banned all drug company representatives from visiting the campus to meet with doctors…