Importance of Geriatric Pharmacology

February 24th, 2011 by Team Healthizen
Elderly Pharmacology is the science or study of drugs, their preparation, properties, uses, and effects. While everyone is aware of the importance of this knowledge in pediatrics, few realize that a separate study should also be done for drugs used in elderly patients. People over 65 years of age are known to constitute the most medicated group of patients and receive the highest proportion of medicines.

While aged individuals easily consume up to 12 types of drugs in a year on an average, people below 45 years of age, barely use more than 5 types of medicines within the same time period. By the year 2040, it is estimated that the geriatric age group will represent 25% of the total population and will buy 50% of all prescription drugs. With advancing age, the ability of the body organs to metabolize various substances reduces considerably.

Also, with degenerative changes taking place simultaneously, the action of a drug in an elderly patient can certainly vary in comparison with others of the same age, depending upon their state of health, as well as with individuals who are much younger. Old age is said to be a second childhood, and there is no doubt that geriatric care needs to be as gentle as pediatric care. It is for this reason that unnecessary medication should be avoided in such cases.

A drug should be administered to a senior citizen only if its potential benefits outweigh the potential risks. While it is a fact that many drugs like antibiotics and thrombolytics can save lives, it is equally true that the very same medicines when not used cautiously can also increase the morbidity and even lead to death. The indiscriminate use of multiple drugs concurrently is not advisable in geriatric patients as it is difficult to predict how their frail bodies may respond to them.

Many elderly patients in hospitals routinely receive drugs that are not essential such as sedatives, painkillers, and antibiotics, which can cause harm either directly or through interactions. This trend must not be encouraged. Logically speaking, clinical trials for every new drug entity must be conducted separately for the geriatric group, on the basis of which the safe dose and dosage of this drug for the elderly can be ascertained. Only this will help to ensure that they are being treated and not drugged!

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