Each week the Office of the Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging releases a Friday newsletter with information relevant to activities, issues and events for older Pennsylvanians and persons with disabilities across the Commonwealth. Click here download the newsletter as a .pdf file.
by Raca Banerjee
“Mary is a 55-year old patient with terminal breast cancer. She suffers from severe pain and her doctor suggests that she consider using a fentanyl transdermal patch to help alleviate her symptoms. In response, she exclaims: ‘Fentanyl? The stuff that killed Prince? No thank you!’
“Current Prescribing Perilous
“This anecdote reflects society’s changing attitude toward opioids, but brings up another important point. How, while our nation battles an opioid epidemic, do we ensure that patients are open to taking narcotics when needed, or have access to pain medication? It is difficult to manage opioid prescribing in a way that prevents abuse while meeting patients’ needs. This becomes twice as hard when prescribing for the aging population, including older adults who have advanced-stage illness or who are at the end of life.
“Barriers that limit access to appropriate opioid treatment include patient fear, physician reluctance to prescribe and strict pharmacy controls or insurer preauthorization restrictions. While these last three issues are important to curbing the opioid epidemic, they may inadvertently lead to under-treatment of pain.”
by Helen Branswell
“Next winter, there may be a new drug for people who contract influenza — one that appears to be able to shut down infection quickly and, unlike anything else on the market, can be taken as a single dose.
“The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday said that it would give the drug, baloxavir marboxil, a priority review, and approval has the potential to upend the way influenza is treated.
“Baloxavir marboxil has already been licensed in Japan, where it is sold by Shionogi & Co. under the brand name Xofluza.”
by Gary Kaye, Chief Content Officer
“By some estimates, the cost of patients not taking their medications as prescribed – known as medical non-adherence or non-compliance – is as high as $290 billion each year and may result in as many as 125,000 unnecessary deaths.
“It’s a vexing problem for health care providers, pharmacies, insurers, and almost every other player in the health care system with only 50% of us take our medication as prescribed.
“I recently spoke with Tomer Gofer, CEO of Vaica, a company developing digital health products to help us remember how and when to take our medications as we should.
“Gofer says ‘there are many reasons why patients don’t take their medications as prescribed: forgetfulness; side effects; the cost; the complexity of regimen; they don’t understand why they need to take it; or they are getting better and think they don’t need it anymore. And the constant: no one knows exactly what the patient is doing because no one is around to see or help in the event of an emergency.’”
Keep reading this important article, click here.
“Most older Americans take multiple medicines every day. But a new poll suggests they don’t get – or seek – enough help to make sure those medicines actually mix safely.”
“Most older Americans take multiple medicines every day. But a new poll suggests they don’t get – or seek – enough help to make sure those medicines actually mix safely.
“That lack of communication could be putting older adults at risk of health problems from interactions between their drugs, and between their prescription drugs and other substances such as over-the-counter medicines, supplements, food and alcohol.
“The new results, from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, show that only about one in three older Americans who take at least one prescription drug have talked to anyone about possible drug interactions in the past two years.
“Even among those taking six or more different medicines, only 44 percent had talked to someone about possible drug interactions.”
SOURCE: California Healthline – (Illustration created using Getty Images)
“Consider it America’s other prescription drug epidemic.
“For decades, experts have warned that older Americans are taking too many unnecessary drugs, often prescribed by multiple doctors, for dubious or unknown reasons. Researchers estimate that 25 percent of people ages 65 to 69 take at least five prescription drugs to treat chronic conditions, a figure that jumps to nearly 46 percent for those between 70 and 79. Doctors say it is not uncommon to encounter patients taking more than 20 drugs to treat acid reflux, heart disease, depression or insomnia or other disorders.
“Unlike the overuse of opioid painkillers, the polypharmacy problem has attracted little attention, even though its hazards are well documented. But some doctors are working to reverse the trend.”
“We have been working hard to help individuals with a disability and older Pennsylvanians to live where and how they choose, just as any of us would want,” Governor Wolf said. “This new website is a tremendous tool to help you or your loved one make the best and most informed decision about care and services.”
The website is a collaboration between the departments of Aging (PDA) and Human Services (DHS), and serves as an extension of PDA’s Aging and Disability Resource call center. With this online resource the commonwealth is adding to its continuing efforts to help Pennsylvanians locate and get the best use of services at the local level.
“Our capacity to link seniors and their families with community resources is critical to helping them live and age well at home,” said Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne. “Today’s launch empowers older Pennsylvanians and their caregivers to proactively explore the service options that are available to them as they seek to remain independent and age in place.”
The site features 12 service and support categories, including Advocacy, Behavioral Health, Employment, Finance, Health Care, Housing, In-Home Services, Legal, Meals, Protection from Abuse, Support Groups, and Transportation.
Users can find information about organizations, services, and programs within these categories. One major component to the site is its home care directory, which connects individuals to in-home services available in their county. More than 350 in-home service providers appearing on the searchable directory may offer personal care, assistance with activities of daily living, companionship services, respite care, and/or habilitation services.
“We are committed to serving Pennsylvanians where they want to be – in their homes and communities,” said DHS Acting Secretary Teresa Miller. “This website is a great resource to connect an individual to the services they need to provide a choice in where they live.”
Following the launch of Pennsylvania Link to Community Care, the departments of Aging and Human Services will continue to enhance the website using data and feedback from users, and expand the resources and information provided throughout the site. If you are a provider licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and would like to appear on the home care directory, you may submit your information by navigating to the footer of the site and clicking on “Apply.”
To learn more about the Pennsylvania Link to Community Care website, or to find information on resources available in your county, visit www.carelink.pa.gov.
“The makers of cancer drugs also make vials with too much medication for many patients. The excess drugs are tossed in the trash — another reason health care costs are so high.”
Gregory Matthews, who is partially blind because of glaucoma, uses eyedrops every day to preserve his remaining sight. (Matt Roth for ProPublica)
by Marshall Allen
“If you’ve ever put in an eyedrop, some of it has almost certainly spilled onto your eyelid or cheek.
“The good news is the mess doesn’t necessarily mean you missed. The bad news is that medicine you wiped off your face is wasted by design — and it’s well-known to the drug companies that make the drops.
“Eyedrops overflow our eyes because drug companies make the typical drop — from pricey glaucoma drugs to a cheap bottle of Visine — larger than a human eye can hold. Some are so large that if they were pills, every time you swallowed one, you’d toss another in the garbage.
“The waste frustrates glaucoma experts like Dr. Alan Robin, whose patients struggle to make pricey bottles of drops last. He has urged drug companies to move to smaller drops — to no avail.”
“The little red pill being pushed on the elderly | CNN investigation exposes inappropriate use of drug in nursing homes”
by Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken; Data analysis by Sergio Hernandez, CNN Investigates
“The maker of a little red pill intended to treat a rare condition is raking in hundreds of millions of dollars a year as it aggressively targets frail and elderly nursing home residents for whom the drug may be unnecessary or even unsafe, a CNN investigation has found.
“And much of the money is coming straight from the federal government. The pill, called Nuedexta, is approved to treat a disorder marked by sudden and uncontrollable laughing or crying — known as pseudobulbar affect, or PBA. This condition afflicts less than 1% of all Americans, based on a calculation using the drugmaker’s own figures, and it is most commonly associated with people who have multiple sclerosis (MS) or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.”