Medicine Safety is a game of Russian roulette for older Australians

PSA remains deeply concerned by the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, particularly in relation to medicine safety and the extensive use of sedatives in aged care facilities.


Older Australians in residential aged care continue to face significant threats to their health due to the harm arising from misuse and mismanagement of their medications.


“It is alarming that this issue – particularly the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medicines and the overuse of sedatives – has not improved over the past five years.” PSA National President A/Prof Chris Freeman said.


“This is a game of Russian roulette, and unfortunately our older Australians are paying the price.”


PSA has called on the Federal Government to improve medicine safety for older Australians by embedding pharmacists in aged care facilities nationwide and removing barriers to the provision of pharmacist services, safeguarding residents from harmful medicine use.


“Some of the stories heard by PSA are truly horrifying. The most heartbreaking aspect of this is that these problems are largely avoidable.” A/Prof Freeman said.


“Medicines are developed, prescribed and dispensed to support good health – and when used properly, have the potential to greatly improve quality of life. But when used incorrectly, they can cause more harm than good, and in the most devastating of circumstances, ultimately lead to death.”


“We need a stronger connection between health care and aged care, and pharmacists, as the custodians of medicine safety, can help bridge this divide.”


“PSA calls on the Federal Government to revise aged care funding instruments, investing $200 million over four years to support residential aged care facilities to directly engage pharmacists. Embedding pharmacists in aged care facilities will improve aged care medication management, ultimately reducing medicine-related harm amongst residents.”


The government must act by embedding pharmacists in residential aged care facilities, before it is too late for some of our aged care residents.”


PSA’s reports, Medicine Safety: Take Care and Medicine Safety: Aged Care, found that:
• 98% of residents in a residential aged care facility have at least one medicine-related problem;
• Over half are exposed to at least one potentially inappropriate medicine;
• 6% were administered at least one potentially hazardous medicine combination;
• 50% of people with dementia are given medicines with anticholinergic properties, worsening confusion and other dementia symptoms;
• 20% of unplanned hospital admissions for aged care residents are due to inappropriate medicine use;
• Many of our aged care residents have faced dangerous and life-threatening drug interactions;
• Half of residents are taking medicines that cause sedation or confusion, with 20% taking antipsychotics and more than half are taking medicines for far too long;
• Between July 2000 and July 2013 there were 30 coronial investigations into medicine-related deaths in aged care facilities;
o In nine cases, deaths occurred due to administration errors – in four cases medication was given to the wrong person; and in four other cases, monitoring errors resulted in a failure to recognise the signs of toxicity.


Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463