High Use of Alternative Medicine in Senior Oncology Patients

“Alternative medicines are widely thought to be at least harmless and very often helpful for a wide range of discomforts and illnesses. However, although they’re marketed as ‘natural,’ they often contain active ingredients that can react chemically and biologically with other therapies. Researchers performed a comprehensive review of all of the medications taken by senior oncology patients and found that as 26 percent were using complementary or alternative medicines (CAM), in a report published August 12th, in the Journal of Geriatric Oncology.

“ ‘Currently, few oncologists are aware of the alternative medicines their patients take,’ said Ginah Nightingale, PharmD, an Assistant Professor in the Jefferson College of Pharmacy at Thomas Jefferson University. ‘Patients often fail to disclose the CAMs they take because they think they are safe, natural, nontoxic and not relevant to their cancer care, because they think their doctor will disapprove, or because the doctor doesn’t specifically ask.’ “


ASCO Calls for Cancer Trials to Include More Seniors

“In a position statement published online July 20 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the American Society of Clinical Oncology has called on the U.S. government and the cancer research community to broaden clinical trials to include older adults.

” ‘Older people living with cancer often have different experiences and outcomes in their treatment than younger cancer patients,’ Julie Vose, M.D., M.B.A., society president, said in a news release from the group. ‘As we age, for example, the risk of adverse reactions from treatment significantly increases. Older adults must be involved in clinical trials so we can learn the best way to treat older cancer patients, resulting in improved outcomes and manageable toxicity,’ she explained.

“More than 60 percent of cancers in the United States occur in people aged 65 and older, the statement authors say, noting the number of seniors will increase in coming years. However, there is a lack of evidence about cancer treatments for the elderly because too few are included in clinical trials, and clinical trials designed specifically for seniors are rare.”


Geriatric Patients with Cancer at Risk for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use

“The prevalence of polypharmacy, excessive polypharmacy and potentially inappropriate medicine use was high among senior patients with cancers, according to results of a pharmacist-led comprehensive medication assessment.

“ ‘Older adults with cancer are particularly prone to medication errors attributed to medication changes, complex regimens and incomplete information handoff between providers,’ Ginah Nightingale, PharmD, BCOP, assistant professor in the department of pharmacy practice of the Jefferson School of Pharmacy at Thomas Jefferson University, and colleagues wrote. ‘Polypharmacy and potentially inappropriate medication use warrant substantial interest and concern on behalf of medical oncologists and oncology health providers because of the perils associated with their use in this vulnerable population.’ “