How to Avoid Adverse Drug Reactions in Elderly People?

August 15, 2023

Elderly people are more prone to adverse drug reactions due to various factors such as age-related changes, multiple health conditions, and polypharmacy.

If you are an elderly person or care for one, you may be aware of the risks of adverse drug reactions (ADRs). 

ADRs are harmful effects caused by medications that can lead to hospitalization, disability, or even death. 

According to the CDC, older adults (65 years or older) visit emergency departments almost 450,000 times each year, more than twice as often as younger persons, due to ADRs1. 

In this article, we will explain why elderly people are more susceptible to ADRs and how to prevent and manage them with an adverse drug reaction checker.

Why are elderly people more at risk of ADRs?

There are several factors that make elderly people more vulnerable to ADRs, such as:

Age-related changes

As we age, our body undergoes physiological changes that can affect how drugs are absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and excreted. 

For example, older adults may have reduced kidney and liver function, which can impair the elimination of drugs and increase their blood levels. 

They may also have lower body water and higher body fat, which can alter the distribution of drugs and prolong their effects.

Multiple health conditions

Older adults often have multiple chronic diseases that require treatment with different medications. 

This can increase the complexity and burden of medication management and the potential for drug interactions. 

Some health conditions can also affect how drugs work or cause similar symptoms as ADRs. 

For example, diabetes can increase the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when taking insulin or other diabetes drugs.


Polypharmacy is the use of multiple medications, usually five or more, by a single person. 

It is common among older adults who have multiple health conditions and see different prescribers. 

Polypharmacy can increase the risk of ADRs by causing drug-drug interactions, drug-disease interactions, or drug-food interactions. 

It can also lead to medication errors, non-adherence, or inappropriate prescribing.

adverse drug reaction checker

How to prevent and manage ADRs in elderly people?

The best way to prevent and manage ADRs in elderly people is to use an adverse drug reaction checker. 

This is a tool that can help you identify and avoid potentially harmful and unsafe combinations of medications, foods, beverages, or herbal supplements. 

You can use an adverse drug reaction checker online by entering the names of the drugs you are taking and checking for any interactions. 

Some examples of online adverse drug reaction checkers are:

  • Drug Interactions Checker: This tool allows you to enter multiple drugs and view a detailed report of their interactions. It also provides information on the severity, onset, mechanism, and management of the interactions.
  • Drug Interaction Checker: This tool lets you enter multiple drugs and see a summary of their interactions. It also gives you tips on how to avoid or minimize the interactions.
  • Drug Interactions Checker: This tool enables you to enter multiple drugs and view a list of their interactions. It also shows you the clinical significance, evidence level, and references of the interactions.

Using an adverse drug reaction checker can help you prevent and manage ADRs in elderly people by:

  • Alerting you of any potential interactions that may cause harmful effects or reduce the effectiveness of your medications.
  • Educating you on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of ADRs and what to do if they occur.
  • Empowering you to communicate with your health care providers about your medications and any concerns or questions you may have.