Growing Senior Population
For years, we have seen demographic projections indicating that the senior population in the United States is not only growing at a dramatic rate, but is also living longer. According to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP), there are 38 million seniors in the United States. But by 2030, the ASCP projects that the number will rise to 75 million. Seniors are expected to continue to live longer. "If we can change the aging process—by eliminating aging-related diseases—in the next 10-20 years, the average life span could be in the 90s," says Donald Louria, MD, professor at the department of Preventive Medicine & Community Health, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School.Despite their increasing longevity, very few senior patients have access to geriatric pharmacists or those who are most qualified to optimize their therapeutic outcomes. The creation of the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit will undoubtedly serve as a catalyst driving increased demand for specialists trained in handling the unique needs of geriatric patients. Many anticipate that it will also increase prescription drug utilization within the senior segment and spark an upward trend in the number of geriatric pharmacists. As a result, partnerships with geriatric pharmacists will be critical for brand teams that market products specifically to the senior population.
Unique Needs of Seniors
Furthermore, "physiological changes place seniors at a greater risk of adverse reactions when taking some medications," says Tom Clark, director of policy for the ASCP. The metabolic rate changes, organ function declines, and sensitivity to some drugs can be altered. When these variables interact in an older patient, individualized drug therapy is often required.
With this in mind, it's not surprising that seniors represent a significant portion of prescription medication use. Statistics released by ASCP indicate that while the elderly account for approximately 13 percent of the population, they consume approximately 40 percent of the total number of prescription drugs.
As a result, the government is taking steps to build programs to counterbalance the excessive use of prescription drugs by seniors. The Medicare Modernization Act mandates the implementation of Medication Therapy Management (MTM) services or programs that optimize therapeutic outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries who receive medication for multiple chronic diseases. Specifically, the legislation requires that all prescription-drug plan sponsors and Medicare Advantage plans offer an MTM program to ensure that drugs are used to optimize therapeutic outcomes and reduce the risk of adverse drug reactions in high-risk patients.