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Drug Induced Dysphagia

25 April 2018

Sarah Bouchard, a Speech and Language Pathologist and Founder of Collaborative for Adaptive Lifestyle Maintenance (Calm, LLC.), put a post on LinkedIn about Drug Induced dysphagia written by Karen Sheffler at Swallow Study.

I realise explaining how I found the article seems lengthy and unnecessary. I’ll explain why I did it shortly. I want to share this article because it is so important?

Firstly, it explains how swallowing difficulties – dysphagia can be induced by medication or as an indirect consequence of its side effects. To help prescribers and Pharmacists make better informed decisions, Karen has collated a series of useful resources which can be downloaded from her website

And secondly, it spotlights a huge issue…

…Medicine prescribers do not really understand dysphagia; how it affects the patient’s ability to take medications and their efficacy.

As we and everyone else in the field of dysphagia knows every fluid swallowed must be the right safe consistency for the drinker to avoid aspiration and its costly consequences. There has been a huge amount of work done into making foods and liquids safer to swallow, but none on medications.

Over the past few years we have been conducting our own research into to how to make medication safer for patients and prescribers to use. During that time, we have tried to engage manufacturers selling liquid medications as “Suitable for Dysphagia” and educate them about the importance of identifying a consistency. This falls on deaf ears.

To quote my last conversation with a manufacturer just two weeks ago; when I asked what consistency a medication was, “No one has ever mentioned the need to make liquid medication a specific consistency. 5mls of liquid will be fine to swallow. There’s no need to change!”

There is an obvious disconnect here which can be closed by making prescribers aware the issues dysphagia causes and now is the perfect time to do it.

The IDDSI is raising awareness of the importance of consistency. Interdepartmental and inter-organization meetings are being held to discuss the Initiative. As a result Dysphagia is a “hot topic”, which provides the opportunity to initiate change.

It will be easy to invite prescribers and Pharmacists – especially in Acute settings – into these discussions. Show them why consistency is important and encourage them to ask suppliers to start providing medications at specific consistencies.

This has never been done before and it will take time to convince people to change. But it will be worth it and that takes us back to the start of my Blog and the reason for my lengthy introduction – Connections.

Sarah posted the link; we read Karen’s article and are now sharing it with you and everyone in our Social Media Community in the hope you share it again and so on.

By taking these small simple steps we can change the way medications are used for those with dysphagia; help prescribers make better informed decisions and ensure those with dysphagia have safer-to-swallow medication.


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