Program aims to prevent negative drug reaction among elderly


Groups working with the elderly are starting new programs to prevent the chance of harmful drug interactions.

There are several pilots around the state that aim to keep the elderly from getting ill from medication designed to keep them well. In Brown County, the Aging and Disability Resource Center is educating seniors and having local pharmacists do prescription reviews, says prevention coordinator Barb Michaels. “It’s been a hot topic of interest from older adults because they really don’t understand their medications, side effects, and the interactions and also sometimes forget what purpose and reason they’re taking the drug for,” she says.

In Dane County, pharmacists have also been been reviewing medications the elderly are taking, through a program initiated by United Way. Deedra Atkinson is Senior Vice president of Community Impact for United Way. She says sometimes medications need adjusting. “One of the things the pharmacists have also found is what they call a ‘prescribing cascade,’ she says. “It starts out with someone having trouble with incontinence. And they take one drug. Then the next thing you know, there’s cognition problems. And then the next thing you know we’re having problems seeing. And that’s because we’re building these drugs to the point where we’re treating the symptoms of other drugs. And that’s when we need to back off and take a fresh look do a comprehensive medication review and say, ‘are we really doing the right thing for this patient’ “

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Data from local health insurers shows on average an elderly person takes six medications a day.