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.”


Healthcare Professionals Are Overmedicating Senior Cancer Patients, And Here's What Can Be Done

“Overmedicating senior cancer patients has become an area of concern for many in the medical community. Instead of strictly blaming healthcare professionals for their lack of oversight, experts point to the failures of available medication management tools.

“Researchers reviewed drug regimens of 234 senior oncology patients and found that 43% of them were taking more than 10 medications at once. They also learned that 51% of study participants were taking potentially inappropriate medications. The report’s findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO).

“Study participants were seen by an interprofessional healthcare team, which consists of a medical oncologist, geriatrician, clinical pharmacist, social worker and dietician. Researchers used several evaluation tools on patients: the Beers criteria list, the STOPP survey and the HEDIS criteria. Each of which were designed to identify medications with a higher risk of causing adverse events in seniors. According to the report’s authors, these three screening tools were used because they represent the ‘most current, evidence-based, clinically validated criteria in the literature.’ “


More than 130 Lawmakers Urge Coverage for Lung Cancer Test that Could Cost Medicare Billions

“More than 130 lawmakers are urging the Obama administration to expand coverage for a lung-cancer test under Medicare that could cost the program billons, calling the screening important for vulnerable seniors.

“In a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the lawmakers called for a timely decision on coverage for low-dose CT scans for older patients at higher risk of developing lung cancer.”