Drug therapy and the older person: role of the pharmacist

Drug Saf. 1998 Oct;19(4):243-50. doi: 10.2165/00002018-199819040-00001.


Older people in the UK receive a disproportionate amount of medication. They comprise 18% of the population but receive 45% of all prescription items. Not surprisingly they experience drug-related illnesses - in 1980, 1 in 10 admissions to acute geriatric units were wholly or partly due to adverse drug reactions. Drugs which should be used with particular care or even avoided in older people include benzodiazepines, warfarin, digoxin, aminoglycosides, tricylic antidepressants, antipsychotics and long-acting oral hypoglycaemic agents. Pharmacists can promote safer prescribing practices by advising both patients and doctors. The community pharmacist can assist in drug compliance by providing patients with additional information about individual drugs, identifying potential adverse drug reactions and interactions, supplying appropriate drug containers or compliance aids, and even arranging home visits for patients unable to visit the pharmacist. Some community pharmacists provide pharmaceutical advice and services to residential and nursing homes. Pharmacists' advice to doctors can include one to one discussions in either primary or secondary care, assisting in medication review, providing information to prescribing committees, compiling drug formularies, assisting in auditing of prescribing practices and organising disposal of unwanted medicines and poisons campaigns.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged*
  • Drug Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Pharmacists*