By Dr. Michael D. Levy
Dr. Michael D. Levy
Head of Pharmacovigilance, Bayer AG
Reaching old age is now commonplace and we have become an aging society. By 2020, the number of people aged 60 or over will outnumber children younger than five.1 The concomitant increase in the burden of age-related diseases threatens to reach unsustainable levels, resulting in one of the most significant healthcare challenges of our time. Why is an aging society such a challenge to good medical care? Surely, with advances in healthcare, medications and therapies, we should be enjoying our golden years like never before? In order to achieve better healthcare in the elderly, three solutions have been identified to help address the challenges:
- Improving adherence: an aging population is strongly associated with poorer adherence to medications, an issue which is currently estimated to cost EU healthcare systems €125 billion annually.2
- Supporting health literacy: even in a first world country such as the United States, only 50% of Americans have ‘basic’ or ‘below basic’ ability to obtain, communicate, process and understand basic health information, a concept known as health literacy.3
- Providing clear information: poor adherence and low rates of health literacy are often due to patients’ lacking information, and this can lead to serious consequences such as medication errors and avoidable health threats.4
We need to pursue new methods and opportunities to engage and collaborate with patients about their health in order to tackle these issues. We know that when people become experts in their own health, they achieve better treatment outcomes. This, in turn, means they are more likely to stay healthy and manage their conditions.5
Improving health literacy is a key focus for Bayer because helping people understand basic health information helps protect the safety of patients. We champion this through different activities, such as participating in Patient Safety Day. We have also developed an array of pharmacovigilance tools and platforms to facilitate quick and easy reporting of adverse events, and promote patient safety.
Pharmacovigilance is the foundation for patient safety by ensuring the safe and appropriate use of medical therapies. Our pharmacovigilance colleagues work through every stage of the product lifecycle to ensure that the benefits of our products outweigh the risks. Our goal is to provide patients with the information they need to make good choices with their medical therapies leading to positive changes in their health. Through scientific innovation, collaboration and education, everyone at Bayer plays a part in effectively supporting the healthy aging of society. We all know that aging is inevitable; but by helping patients understand basic health information, we can support people growing old on their own terms.
1 World Health Organisation. Ageing and Health. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ageing-and-health. Last accessed: August 2019.
2 Yap AF, Thirumoorthy T, Kwan YH. Medication Aheren. Journal of Clinical Gerontology and Geriatrics in the Volume 7, Issue 2, 2016, pp. 64-67.
3 US Department of Health & Human Services. America’s Health Literacy: Why we need accessible health information. Available at: https://health.gov/communication/literacy/issuebrief/ Last accessed: August 2019.
4 King, A. (2010). Poor health literacy: a 'hidden' risk factor. Nature Reviews Cardiology, 7(9), pp.473-474.
5 Crawford, C. Health is Primary: Engaged patients are healthier patients. AAFP. 07 Dec 2016. Available at: https://www.aafp.org/news/family-medicine-americas-health/20161207hip-patientengage.html. Last accessed: August 2019.