Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hard pill to swallow???

For many Americans sweet dreams are not obtainable. They complain of poor sleep everyday - or more appropriately every night. The elderly are much more likely to report sleep problems. Due to a myriad of reasons, most physiologic sleep is altered and they find themselves up at night when they should be getting restorative sleep. For that reason the use of sleep aids has increased...and so have the consequences. Many drugs leave patients with 'hangover' effects impairing judgment and physical mobility long into the daylight hours after taking these prescription sleep aids - especially long-acting formulas. For the elderly this can be especially dangerous leading to increased risk for severe injuries related to falls, mismanagement of medications and other accidents. Some hospitals have reduced the use of such medications in hopes of reducing confusion, falls and other sequelae (especially in the elderly). In the hospital setting, patients often do not recover from untoward events. 
Cascade Iatrogenesis is a series of adverse events triggered by an initial medical or nursing intervention initiating a cascade of decline. It often results in a poor outcomes for the patient or inability to return to pre-illness level of functioning and is preventable. Many of these events are precipitated by medications - either a new medication, too many medications (polypharmacy) drug-drug interactions, over-sedation, so on and so on...
As for the use of sleep aids, especially in the acute care setting, it cannot be overstated - we must be vigilant and cautious when utilizing these or any medications in the elderly patient. Having an a lower dose option may be helpful, however we should really be considering alternatives rather than adding one more pill to the the medication soup

See the following:
Wall Street Journal: Citing Dangers, FDA Requires Lower Doses for Certain Insomnia Drugs 
National Sleep Foundation:

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