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Drug effects on elderly differ from younger adults.

When doctors prescribe medications, they take various factors into account in determining proper dosage. Because prescription guidelines vary according to weight and age of patient, a child under six should receive less than a twelve-year-old, whose dosage would be smaller than that of an adult.

Although the adult category describes a broad range of individuals of varying ages and medical histories, prescription guidelines unfortunately regard them basically to be the same. The disregard for essential differences can prove to be fatal.

Traditional clinical testing of prescribed drugs includes people of various ages. In theory that should provide an important description of what the drug can accomplish. Older people, and the effects of specific medication upon them, have been ignored until recently. Fortunately that oversight may be changing.

Dr. Robert Temple, the director of the Food and Drug Administration, seems to recognize the problem. He recently commented, noting that the elderly handle a drug differently, not necessarily because of aging, but their state of vulnerability varies. They usually have other illnesses for which medications can interfere with the metabolism of the additional drug.

Weight should also be a compelling consideration and medications prescribed accordingly. Older people weigh less as they age. Adjustments in dosage are important. The body-water composition is markedly different in senior citizens. They have a higher proportion of fat and less moisture. Some drugs concentrate in fat tissue and will be retained longer, creating an overload.

The efficiency with which organs function can be affected by the aging process. Liver and kidney functions decrease, dropping by at least 30 percent at age 65. Metabolization of the drug and the eventual excretion of its residue can be seriously delayed if the medication is too potent.
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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