Published February 4, 2020
UB’s Team Alice has taken its message on the road in an attempt to protect elderly patients from medication harm.
That was in evidence during a December visit to the Cheektowaga Senior Center in suburban Buffalo for an event titled “Self-Advocacy and Medications,” which was hosted by University Express of the Erie County Department of Senior Services. Researchers and patient advocates from Team Alice did the presentation.
“The TV ads say ‘Talk to your doctor about taking X,’” says Ranjit Singh, MB BChir, associate professor of family medicine, 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 adds. “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.”
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.
Singh says 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,” Singh says. “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?’”
After losing her mother, Alice, to preventable medication errors in 2009, Mary Brennan-Taylor has been sharing her tragic story with students, health care providers, policymakers and media both 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.
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 being a member of Team Alice, Brennan-Taylor is now also a research instructor of family medicine.
Other UB faculty involved in Team Alice who participated in the Cheektowaga event include: Collin Clark, PharmD; Christopher Daly, PharmD; David M. Jacobs, PharmD; Scott V. Monte, PharmD; and Robert G. Wahler, PharmD, all clinical assistant professors in the Department of Pharmacy Practice in the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Joe S. Cal is a patient advocate.