Simple solution to drug errors for elders

January 23, 2013 3:47:54 PM PST
Medication errors are a major problem. Some local doctors are raising the warning flag - and a simple solution.

We're talking about medications taken by the elderly


The elderly make up 15-percent of the population, but they take 30-percent of the prescription drugs.

There are many drugs which older people shouldn't take, because their bodies can't handle them.

But, doctors still prescribe them, unaware of the risks.

And seniors themselves buy over-the-counter drugs, like ibuprofen and naproxen, not knowing there are limits to their use.

Two doctors at Jefferson University's School of Population Health found that by simply teaching doctors about a list of the risky drugs, and the dangers of those medications, can significantly cut the number of mistakes.

Working with Dr. Stefano Del Canale in Parma, Italy, they launched a pilot project to change the prescribing behavior of general physician. They educated the doctors on 'inappropriate medications,' using the 'Beers Criteria,' a list first published in 1991.

At the end of the 3-year study, there was a 10 per cent drop in the number of inappropriate medications prescribed. The study was so successful that the doctors in Italy adopted the practices permanently.

Among the drugs on the list some antihistamines, heart medications, anxiety drugs called benzodiazapines, digoxin, and painkillers in the NSAIDS class. Those include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, and generics), ketoprofen, naproxen (Aleve and its generics).

The NSAIDS are safe for short-term use, but the Beers Criteria list says long-term use can present risks.

Dr. Vittorio Maio, one of the study's three co-authors, says, "Most of the time there are alternative medications that can be used that have been proven much safer than ones on the list."

His colleague, Scott Keith, Ph.D., says, "We're talking about improving health outcomes, and the quality of healthcare in america millions of people."

The list of inappropriate drugs, known as the Beers list,, has been endorsed by the American Geriatrics Society.

If you have an older loved one, it's a good idea to check it out.