Release Date: December 5, 2019
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Older adults take more prescription drugs than any other segment of the population. Many take drugs that not only aren’t doing them any good, they may actually be doing them harm.
Empowering seniors to begin addressing that problem themselves is the focus of a session being held by Team Alice, an innovative research and advocacy initiative based in the Center for Successful Aging at the University at Buffalo.
Where: Cheektowaga Senior Center, 3349 Broadway, Cheektowaga, NY 14227
When: 10 a.m. on Dec. 5
What: “Self-advocacy and Medications,” hosted by University Express of the Erie County Department of Senior Services, and led by researchers and patient advocates from UB’s Team Alice.
Who: Members of Team Alice, including: Mary Brennan-Taylor, patient advocate and adjunct faculty member, Department of Family Medicine, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB; Molly Ranahan, PhD, postdoctoral scholar in the Primary Care Research Institute, Department of Family Medicine; Joe S. Cal, patient advocate; and Collin Clark, PharmD, postdoctoral scholar, Primary Care Research Institute, Department of Family Medicine.
After losing her mother, Alice, to preventable medication errors in 2009, Brennan-Taylor has been sharing her tragic story with students, health care providers, policymakers and media, locally and nationally in hopes of changing both health care culture and policy. Inspired by this, Team Alice, a multidisciplinary research team at UB, was formed to protect seniors from medication-related harm.
Through events like these and the development of short videos, Team Alice is engaging with seniors in Western New York to help them understand the risks of inappropriate medications and to advocate for themselves to get off some of these drugs, or to avoid taking them in the first place.
“The TV ads say ‘Talk to your doctor about taking X,’” said Ranjit Singh, MD, associate professor of family medicine at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, director of its Primary Care Research Institute and a member of Team Alice. “We say, ‘Talk to your doctor about not taking X.’
“We call it patient-driven deprescribing,” Singh continued. “It’s about patient empowerment, an initiative to arm patients with the skills to advocate for themselves so they can stop taking certain medications that could do them more harm than good.”
Singh said part of the difficulty is that the health care environment and systems currently in place work to keep patients on medications rather than question whether or not they are still well-served by them.
“The provider isn’t thinking about this,” said Singh. “In primary care, providers are under a lot of pressure to meet productivity and quality metrics. It takes extra thought and time to pause and say, should we stop this medication? If we want to stop it, how do we do it? Do we need to taper it or can we stop it right away? What symptoms should we look for? We’re teaching the patient a way to say ‘hey, doc, do I really need this?’”
Team Alice has developed The Deprescribing Partnership of Western New York, holding regular meetings with local stakeholders, including primary care providers, pharmacists, insurance plans, and the area’s Regional Health Information Organization, HEALTHeLINK, to develop and test solutions locally.
In addition to Brennan-Taylor, Ranahan, Clark, and Singh, other UB faculty involved in Team Alice are Robert G. Wahler, Jr., PharmD, Scott V. Monte, PharmD, David M. Jacobs, PharmD, and Christopher Daly, PharmD, all clinical assistant professors in the Department of Pharmacy Practice in the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Andrew Baumgartner, a fourth-year medical student in the Jacobs School is also on the team.