America’s Other Drug Problem': Copious Prescriptions for Hospitalized Older Adults

Polypharmacy is an increasingly troublesome trend among older adults, who often are overburdened with inappropriate or unnecessary medications. Drugs found on the Beers list—named for the doctor who started it—potentially cause confusion, falls, respiratory distress, and other harm to this patient population; yet they are still unwittingly prescribed. The problem is amplified when hospital doctors add medications to treat the problem for which a patient was admitted, prevent complications, or control adverse effects from the original drugs. Prescribing decisions often are made without considering other medications a patient is already taking or how long they need to take the new drugs ones. As a result, HHS estimates that more than one-half of hospital stays disrupted by drug-related complications involve older adults; and almost one-fifth of patients in this demographic experience prescription-related problems in the first 45 days following discharge, according to a 2013 study. Research also suggests that retaining a pharmacist trained in geriatric care can help improve care to older patients and avoid readmissions caused by medical mix-ups. The role of such individual might include reviewing patients' medication history in order to eliminate duplicate or potentially harmful drugs; monitoring patients' use of newly prescribed drugs; counseling them about their regimens before being released from the hospital; and calling them post-discharge to ensure they following them as prescribed. [Source: Kaiser Health News (08/30/16) Gorman, Anna]