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

Neel rises early the next morning to drive to another nursing home about 20 miles south. There, too, he has a combative relationship with the facility’s medical director.

“I Gave Him His Life Back”

As soon as Neel arrives at the facility, he searches out a 73-year-old resident who’s lived in the nursing home for five years. The man, who has advanced Parkinson’s disease, brightens instantly.

One problem, as Neel sees it, is that few of the 300 or so doctors who treat patients in the facilities he visits have a special interest in geriatrics. How many do? "Maybe two," he says.

When Neel first looked at his chart, the man was on 20 milligrams of the antipsychotic medication Zyprexa, a daily dose that by any measure is therapeutic overload; he’s down to 2.5 milligrams a day, and soon, Neel says, he may be off the drug entirely.

The man’s old symptoms — nonstop yelling, tongue-thrusting, pill-rolling (a Parkinsonian tremor that takes the form of a continuous back-and-forth motion of the thumb and fingers) — have all disappeared, and now he sometimes comes to sit quietly next to Neel as he works.

The physician overseeing the man’s treatment told Neel and the nurses that he would never be able to walk again. But walk he now does — and walk and walk. He visits other residents in their rooms and likes to sit near the main nursing station — the hub of activity. "I gave him his life back," Neel says matter-of-factly.

One problem, as Neel sees it, is that few of the 300 or so doctors who treat patients in the facilities he visits have a special interest in geriatrics. How many do?

"Maybe two," he says. "They’re not up-to-date with the physiology of the geriatric patient as it relates to the chemistry of the drug. That’s the easiest way to put it."

Neel reviews a few more patient charts, producing more small pink suggestion slips, each numbered sequentially, as he goes.

At another nursing home, where Neel has known the medical director for more than 30 years, the success of a collaborative approach is clear.

"If I write up a suggestion to paint the nose blue," Neel jokes, "when I go back the next time, the nose is blue."

The cost per patient for drugs at this nursing home is down to about $14 a day, the lowest in Georgia.

Next: Ask the Pharmacist. >>

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