Optimizing drug treatment in old age: a novel translational research project

PI: Kristina Johnell, kristina.johnell@ki.se

A major challenge in health care is the lack of knowledge about harmful effects of polypharmacy (use of multiple drugs) and inappropriate drug treatment in old age. Randomized clinical trials typically exclude patients of advanced age with polypharmacy and co-morbidities (one or more additional, co-occurring diseases or disorders). Hence, there is an urgent need for evidence about the benefits and harms of drug treatment in old age to support balanced drug prescribing and to enhance patient safety.

In this research project, we will integrate epidemiological findings with experimental basic science to provide evidence for optimal drug treatment in old age. The findings obtained from the epidemiological studies will be mimicked in experimental models to investigate biological, functional, and psychological outcomes of polypharmacy and inappropriate drug use and to identify biomarkers (medical signs) of adverse effects of drugs in old age. We will place particular focus on dementia, because patients with dementia have an increased risk of adverse drug reactions.

The ultimate goal of this project is to contribute to improving the health and well-being of older people who receive multiple medications. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to approach the challenges of drug treatment in old age with the proposed translational design (a design that combines experimental basic science with epidemiology). We anticipate that our findings will be directly applicable to clinical guidelines.

The project is funded by a grant from the Swedish Research Council.