New principles for medication management for older people

Researchers develop consensus principles for medication management in older people.

Morning and evening pill holder closeup

Researchers from Monash University have led an international collaboration in the development of consensus principles for medication management in frail older people.

The principles aim to reduce the harm that is often caused by polypharmacy (multiple medicine use) that is common among older populations.

Monash University’s Centre for Medical Use and Safety (CMUS) teamed up with clinicians and researchers from countries with ageing populations, including Finland, France, Italy, Norway and Sweden, to identify a gap in existing frameworks designed to protect at-risk members of the community from medication-related harm.

Frail older people often experience challenges managing medicines, exacerbated by polypharmacy and complex medicine regimens.

In addition, frail older people often have dementia, poor eyesight or limited dexterity, which have been linked to increased risk of harm from medication errors.

CMUS pharmacist Shin Liau said the new principles were a positive step towards improving medicines management among the most vulnerable members of society.

The principles relate to clinical practice (seven principles), research (six principles) and education (four principles).

The principles include ensuring appropriate prescribing and deprescribing, including more frail older people in clinical trials, improving health and medication literacy, and facilitating better communication among patients, carers and healthcare teams.

CMUS director Professor Simon Bell said that frail older people may have a different risk-to-benefit ratio from their medicines than those who are robust.

“Frail older people are often excluded from participating in clinical trials, and so the evidence-base for prescribing in this population is limited,” Prof. Bell said.

As Australia’s ageing population continues to grow, the number of frail elderly people is also increasing every year.

Medicine safety recently became Australia’s newest national health priority, with health ministers recognising the urgent need to ensure medicines improve the health of older Australians, not place them at risk.

How many different medicines do you take? Do you think enough is being done to ensure your combination of medicines don’t do you harm?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    15th Jul 2020
    I wouldn’t call myself “frail” but I am getting older. My GP keeps watch on my medications and suggests alternatives - e.g. lower blood pressure by lowering weight, taking exercise and avoiding salt. My pharmacist asks questions if I have a new script. But having seen older people in aged care, I think some of the issues mentioned above are accurate and concerning.
    15th Jul 2020
    I take two blood pressure tablets but quite a few other health products. I am 79 but not frail.
    All products I take are listed on my health record with my doctor. All have been recommended by my doctor and this list goes with my referrals to any other specialist I may need to see. I feel this is a pretty good way of keeping track of it.

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