Drug use among older people who have more than one chronic disease should be closely monitored to avoid therapeutic duplication and serious side effects, the Taiwan Pharmacist Association said.
The Food and Drug Administration commissioned the association to institute a national standard procedure for pharmaceutical care — including homecare and community care — for people 65 and over who are taking more than five medications, or who have multiple chronic conditions.
The association chose six cities and counties this year to launch a pharmaceutical care service program to help reduce both unnecessary medication and side effects.
The 697 people recruited to participate in the program have an average of 2.8 types of chronic disease, and 744 potential drug therapy problems were found.
With regard to drug therapy problems, 40.6 percent involved prescriptions that did not correspond to the patients’ conditions, including cases in which other drugs should be introduced or unnecessary drugs scrapped.
Another 27.8 percent of cases involved drug safety problems, including excessively high dosage and unwanted drug interactions and allergies, while 21.4 percent involved poor drug effectiveness resulting from poor choice of drugs or insufficient dose, the association said.
A 62-year-old woman surnamed Shen (沈) has multiple chronic diseases and at one point was taking more than 20 pills a day, including sleeping pills and tranquilizers.
“I used to take four tranquilizers per meal, in addition to antidepressants and pills for panic disorder,” she told a recent press conference hosted by the association in Taipei.
After the intervention of a pharmacist, who also urged her to exercise more, Shen said she now takes only seven pills a day and is no longer bothered by drowsiness.