Mar 20, 2018

Aged Care Overmedication: How Pharmacists Can Stop This Health Crisis

Overmedication is a serious issue in aged care facilities – and the more medications a person is on, the higher risk they are at for adverse effects.

People in aged care are prescribed a wide range of medications – which extends all the way out to sedatives and antipsychotics.

It’s been commonly said that those types of drugs are over-prescribed in aged care to sedate the resident to make them easier to care for or to mask their real co

Research from Macquarie University found that 85% of aged care residents were on five or more medication, and 45% are on 10 or more different medications.

In extreme scenarios, about 4% are on more than 20 medications.

The more medication you’re on, the higher the risk of adverse effects. Therefore, medication safety is a major issue faced by aged care.

In the UK, it was announced that around 180,000 people living in nursing or residential homes will have their prescriptions and medicines reviewed by the pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.  

The government-funded project will have 240 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working with GPs to review the prescriptions seen in aged care homes across the country.

Such a review can reduce medicines waste, improve efficiency and provide better health outcomes.

National Health Service (NHS) trials found that a resident’s quality of life could be greatly improved by pharmacists reviewing their medication. It was also found to reduce the number of emergency admissions.

In fact, it was seen that by reviewing medications of residents in the Northumberland area, “one hospital readmission could be avoided for every 12 residents reviewed”.

Results from the six aged care facilities that piloted this initiative showed

  • reduced reported emergency hospital admissions by 21%,
  • reduced oral nutritional support usage by 7%,
  • reduced ambulance call out by up to 30%;
  • drug cost savings of $225-555 per resident.

“There’s increasing evidence that our parents and their friends – a whole generation of people in their 70s, 80s and 90s – are being overmedicated in care homes, with bad results,” says Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England.”

“Let’s face it—the policy of ‘a pill for every ill’ is often causing frail older people more health problems than it’s solving.”

“So expert pharmacists are now going to offer practical NHS support and medicines reviews in care homes across England.”

With such successful patient outcomes in the UK, it’s a potential approach that could be adopted here in Australia too.

Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Board, says that the pharmacist plays just a big a role in aged care as a doctor or nurse.

“Many pharmacists already play a vital role in care homes, including through supporting other staff as part of a multi-disciplinary team, and we know that our members will welcome the opportunity to get more involved in providing direct patient care,” she said.

“In order to make the most out of this chance to improve health outcomes, commissioners can also better co-ordinate and integrate patient care by drawing on the expertise and knowledge of pharmacists wherever they are based.”

“Every hospital ward has a linked pharmacist. It’s about time every [facility] had one too.”

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