Adverse drug reactions kill a third of the elderly —Expert

A medical expert, Dr Lawrence Adebusoye has said that adverse drug reaction as a result of polypharmacy accounts for the death a third of the elderly people dying.

Dr Adebusoye spoke at the opening of the fourth Basic Certificate Course in Geriatric Medicine at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan.

He stated that these deaths sometimes occur because the medications are wrong, given at a wrong time or interfere with one another.

He noted that many elderly people have multiple diseases that require they take different medications daily to treat them, thereby exposing them to adverse reactions of drugs.

The geriatric expert noted that no two individuals age at the same rate, and that many diseases are associated with old age. In treating them, he said, it is important  to consider the possibility of these drugs interacting with one another.

Dr Adebusoye declared that treating elderly people requires they have a comprehensive assessment because a symptom in one part of their body may be a manifestation of a disease in another part of their body.

He stated that elderly people are unique and different from other age groups because they tend to often have multiple diseases, prolonged hospital stay because their recovery rate is poor, experience more complications and sometimes more diseases may be responsible for one complaint in them.

The expert highlighted challenges of old age to include falls, immobility due to arthritis, intellectual impairment, incontinence and infections.

According to him, “when you are looking for fever in elderly to denote infection, you are just deceiving yourself because the immune system shuts down with time.”

He decried the care of old people in Nigeria, saying it is fraught with such challenges as poor funding for research into geriatric care, lack of national policy on care of older persons and lack of in-depth training in old age care.

Dr Adebusoye stated that all that geriatrics aims at in the care of the elderly is to add life to their years, thereby improving their quality of life and prolonging their years.

The medical expert, however, declared elderly people as the fastest growing subgroup in the world, with more than a million people crossing the age of 60 in the world each month.

“Presently, 13 per cent of the world’s population is elderly and by 2030, it will be about 20 per cent. Nigeria is projected to be the only African country that will have an elderly population of more than 15 million,” he added.

Director of Chief Tony Anenih Geriatric Centre, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Dr Olufemi Olowookere, stated that the Basic Certificate Course in Geriatric Medicine was to build capacity in the care of the elderly.

According to him, geriatric medicine has been relegated to the background unlike the care of children, adolescents and pregnant women, even though elderly people are key and very important to the society.

Dr Olowookere stated that the centre had trained over 75 doctors in the care of the elderly since it commenced the training since even in medical schools, the care of the elderly is just coming up.

He, therefore, called for the passage of policy framework of geriatric care that was accented to by President Muhammadu Buhari at the last ageing summit held in December 2018 in Abuja.

Dr Olowookere added that, “elderly people are unique, they are different, so those characteristics that are peculiar to them are the things we want doctors to know so that we can manage them very well.”