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Age-related medication use considerations

Posted Jun 10 2009 6:43pm
Nadia Surujbally, PharmD (c)
University of Florida College of Pharmacy

Medications are used with the intent to improve quality of life. Older adults are at an increased risk for medication-related problems. Drug therapy may cause more harm than good if an improper medication is used or therapy is not monitored. There are many factors that increase the likelihood of a medication-related problem in the older patient.
As we get older, our body metabolizes and eliminates drugs less effectively; this is a result of primarily liver and kidney function decline. If doses aren’t adjusted for these changes it can lead to adverse drug events, complications and even mortality. Medication response is also enhanced in the elderly; they are more sensitive to effects of the drug, both therapeutic effects and side effects. Side effects like dizziness, sedation and fatigue are more commonly experienced and pose danger to the geriatric patient. As a results of all this, there are certain medications that should be avoided or used cautiously with monitoring parameters.
Older patients frequently have multiple chronic illnesses (high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, GERD, etc.). Medications that may work to help once condition may adversely affect another. Not only do we need to worry about all the illnesses one may have, we also need to consider what other medications they are taking. Adverse drug advents due to multiple drug interactions are prevalent because most geriatric patients take more than one medication.
It is important that all these aspects are considered when prescribing or beginning treatment in the geriatric patient to prevent medication-related problems.
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