At PGx Medical, we made the decision to focus on the field of aging services. Doing one thing, and one thing only helps us direct all our attention on the unique needs in senior communities across the country.
The American Geriatrics Society reports there are 7,300 certified geriatricians in the United States, which is one geriatrician for every 2,700 Americans who are 75 or older. Due to the projected increase in the number of older adults and the plateauing of the number of geriatricians over the last 10 years, it is expected to drop to one geriatrician for every 4,500 older Americans by 2030. In an article in Medicalnews.com, several medical experts state with a growing elderly population that is living longer with fewer physicians available to treat them, the future of geriatric medicine is on the verge of transitioning from disease treatment to disease prevention.
According to Paul Hill, MD, a geriatric psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), a common challenge for physicians is determining whether geriatric patients are taking their medicine consistently. Hill says advances in pharmacology will make the process easier.
Another issue physicians and pharmacists deal with on a frequent basis is the prescribing cascade. This is when the side effects of drugs are misdiagnosed as symptoms of another problem, resulting in further prescriptions and more side effects and ultimately drug reactions.
Older adults on multiple medications can lead to polypharmacy, which is common in geriatric patients. Polypharmacy refers to the effects of taking multiple medications concurrently to manage coexisting health problems. According to Dr. Linda Shell, MA, RN, “polypharmacy has been a silent killer for years, draining funds from Medicare and dismantling the treatment plans of millions as it becomes a habit ingrained in our culture, especially in eldercare. We’ve become resigned to the falsehood that more drugs mean better treatment, but there’s something putting an end to that.”
The CDC reports 76 percent of Americans over 60 use two or more prescription drugs and 37 percent use five or more. It is important to not only know what medications someone is taking, but track each patient’s medications and any side effects that may result from drug-to-drug interactions.
PGx Medical partners with pharmacists and physicians to educate and implement a tool to help determine the right drug, at the right dose, for each individual patient. It’s called pharmacogenetics.
Pharmacogenetics aligns current and future medications with each persons unique genetic profile. When the pharmacist and the physician work as a team to look at metabolization, side effects or any drug-drug interactions, it helps eliminate the guessing game – or prescribing by trial and error. By being proactive, healthcare professionals can help prevent the cascading event that happens when medications are added on top of one another. In the field of aging services, you may not have the luxury of waiting 3-6 weeks to see if a medication is working.
For more information on pharmacogenetics, contact: