Came across this post recently…an interesting issue for seniors. Does the body metabolize prescribed meds?

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 200,000 older adults are hospitalized annually due to “adverse drug reactions”. And 55 percent of the elderly don’t take their medications according to the doctor’s orders.

For some, it is a vision problem – not being able to read the small print on prescription labels which can lead to potentially dangerous misuse. For others, it may be due to memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and they simply forget to take their medications which can lead to life threatening situations. For a senior in a memory care unit, it is difficult for them to tell you a.) if they have taken their medications, and b.) if their medications are working properly. (And finally, these seniors may be unable or unwilling to advocate for themselves. They are blindly following orders.)

But, what if they are taking their medications as prescribed but they don’t have the ability to metabolize those medications? Not only are they throwing money away on medications that aren’t working, their health may be diminishing while they are on a “trial and error” medication. Have you ever heard a physician say, “take this for three weeks and if it doesn’t work, come back and we’ll try something else?” In an elderly person, sometimes you can’t afford to wait.

A lot of senior communities around the country have implemented the Metabolic Validation Program, via pharmacogenetic testing. By doing a simple buccal swab of the cheek, the healthcare team can now know scientifically if a medication has the ability to metabolize in that individual, as well as if they are having drug-on-drug interactions, or may need a dosage adjustment according to their rate of metabolism.

So what does it cost the individual or the facility? Medicare B covers the cost of the test and in some states, medicaid covers it as well. You might be asking yourself, “Will this bankrupt medicare?” The answer to that is no. Due to overspending on unnecessary medications, this test is actually a cost savings. For individuals on multiple medications this test can significantly reduce consumption of inefficient drugs.

John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions. He can be reached at: (781) 378-2164; email: ; or online at: