Report lays out challenges in seniors medication use

CIHI report findings not surprising to pharmacists

OTTAWA, March 19 /CNW Telbec/ - According to a recent report from the Canadian Institute for Health Informatics (CIHI), almost 62 per cent of Canadians age 65 and older (living in the community in the six provinces studied*) are on five or more classes of prescription drugs. Forty per cent of Canada's population is currently over 65 and with the aging 'baby boomer' population this number is increasing.

"The number of drugs seniors are taking makes them vulnerable to medication related problems," says Jeff Poston, executive director of the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA). "Pharmacists, with their extensive knowledge of medication, can help prevent problems and provide solutions."

Studies have shown that 5 to 10 of hospitalizations are drug related.(1) It is thought that about 28 percent of emergency department visits are also drug related and up to 70 percent of these are preventable, creating an even greater burden to an already overwhelmed health care system.(2) Despite concerns about numbers of medications, some studies also point out that seniors might be undertreated and are not receiving drugs that could be of benefit.

Pharmacists are medication experts and as the most accessible health care professionals, are uniquely positioned to optimize drug therapy and potentially prevent medication related illnesses. Legislation that is currently being enacted across Canada is allowing pharmacists to work in an expanded scope of practice, using their skills and knowledge to provide patient-centred care and in so doing, improve patient outcomes.

There are a number of tools that pharmacists use to address the needs of their patients. Medication reviews, reimbursed in provinces such as Ontario through the MedsCheck program, can identify possible redundancies in therapy, medication no longer needed, or in some cases, medication that is needed, but not prescribed. Pharmacists may also provide blister packaging and dosettes, in an effort to ensure that seniors take the right medication at the right time.

Many seniors require a significant number of medications to treat chronic diseases. The local pharmacist is a valuable resource to help seniors to manage their medications, respond to questions about the purpose of certain medications that are prescribed, or their potential adverse effects.

Please note: the French version of this release will follow and will be available at shortly.

About the Canadian Pharmacists Association

The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is the national organization of pharmacists, committed to providing leadership for the profession and improving the health of Canadians. CPhA has developed a Safe Medicines for Seniors program and Knowledge is the best medicine, both designed to help seniors and caregivers safely manage their medication.

    *  NPDUIS (National Prescription Drug Utilization Information System)
         data from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New
         Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

    (1)  Cavallucci S,The top 200: What's making waves in prescription sales.
         Pharmacy Practice 2006;22:44-49.
    (2)  Zed PJ. Drug-related visits to the emergency department. J Pharm
         Pract 2005;1:329-35.

SOURCE Canadian Pharmacists Association

For further information: For further information: Jennifer L. Hood, Communications Specialist, Canadian Pharmacists Association, (613) 523-7877, 1-800-917-9489 x219,

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