Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today


AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy


The tablet with free 24/7 customer support. Learn More


Military and Veterans Discount



AARP Games - Play Now!

Learning Centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.


Heart Disease


Most Popular


The Pharmacist Who Says No to Drugs

Armon B. Neel Jr. shows patients — and their doctors — the way to better health with fewer medications

"Here was a brand-new population of people, and nobody had any earthly idea how to take care of them," he recalls. "Back then you’d see Mellaril [a powerful antipsychotic drug] brought in by the truckload. They used it as a chemical restraint. Nursing homes back then didn’t have a lot of help, so the best help they had was to drug the patients. I knew it wasn’t humane, and I fought it from day one."

On Wednesday night Neel is driving to a mom-and-pop motel in rural Georgia that he has stayed in many times. It’s not far from a county-owned nursing home Neel counts among his institutional clients.

The next morning at 9, Neel is stationed at a small desk near the nursing director’s office. He has brought along a notebook computer, portable printer and a supply of blank forms and printed materials. He knows just about everyone, it seems, by name.

An Epidemic of Overmedication

The doctor who serves as the nursing home’s medical director doesn’t seem to care for Neel’s approach to medication reviews — a task mandated by federal law that’s often seen as rubber-stamp work. The doctor doesn’t talk to Neel, choosing to deal with him mostly through the nursing staff.

Throughout the day Neel will type his medication-related suggestions on a form of his own design (printed on a pink paper so as to stand out in the patient’s medical records) that directs the patient’s physician to check a box that says "Accept" or "Reject" before signing and dating it.

The medical director rejects, almost without exception, Neel’s suggestions. He evidently takes umbrage at being second-guessed by a pharmacist — something, Neel says, that’s not at all unusual. Neel finds the lack of engagement troubling.

"He’s here once a month," Neel says. "Maybe five minutes per patient. That’s all a medical director is required to do."

Neel begins working his way through a tall stack of blue loose-leaf binders that contain patient charts and other medical records. Today he’s reviewing the charts of residents who are taking nine or more prescription medications simultaneously.

Next: Getting up close and personal >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members can earn 50 points per $1 spent on select health & wellness products at Walgreens.

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members save 15% on easy listening devices and more at the HearUSA Hearing Shop.

Eye Med 4 Membership Benefit AARP Discount

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at Target Optical.

Membership Benefits Discounts Email Genius

Brain boost? Get AARP email for access to memory exercises & more that help you focus.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points