With the world's population aged 60 and over expected to triple to two billion by 2050, advances in silicon-based technologies could help address some of the economic and social issues related to increased healthcare requirements.
“Such an increase in the number of elderly people presents a unique set of challenges. As the global population ages, healthcare consumption and costs continue to rise. The aging population threatens to increase this further,” said Carol Pudnos, Dow Corning global Healthcare Industries executive director. “More innovation is required to address the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. Our goal is to find ways in which our silicon-based materials technologies can contribute to more effective healthcare for all.”
Studies show that older adults are more likely to suffer chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis and diabetes, resulting in their need for more and different health services than younger adults. As medical advances extend life spans for those with chronic conditions, the need for ongoing healthcare services and products that improve their quality of life will increase. Without significant changes to current healthcare systems, however, the financial consequences of this could be substantial. Globally, countries spend an average of 9.2 percent of their gross domestic product on healthcare expenditures. By 2015, that number could reach 20 percent.
“New technologies that increase the safety and efficacy of drug delivery, reduce infections, and boost patient compliance are among the best ways to address these growing requirements and the severe impact they will have on public health systems and healthcare financing,” Pudnos said.
Dow Corning’s silicon-based materials are designed to address a number of these issues. For example, silicone adhesives are used in advanced wound dressing products that allow the dressing to be removed without harming an elderly person’s delicate skin. Other silicone adhesive technologies are critical to the safe and effective performance of some transdermal drug delivery patches. “With increasing hospitalization as a result of the aging population, we expect silicones to become more widely used in order to provide a more comfortable patient experience,” said Pudnos.
Examples of these Dow Corning solutions that benefit older patients include:
- Drug delivery methods that help enhance safety, efficacy and patient compliance. Dow Corning products used in drug delivery are non-irritating, important when used on elderly skin. Pressure sensitive adhesives for transdermal drug delivery allow for an effective means to administer certain drugs through the patient’s skin, avoiding the need to take drugs orally. Elderly patients often forget to take their oral medications, and even when they do, this can place increased stress on major organs such as the liver.Dow Corning excipients can improve formulation aesthetics by providing a non-greasy, silky feel and improve spreading. For older patients who have weakened skin, impaired motor skills or are having to use several medications, the combination of these performance and comfort features not only make topical products easier to use but they provide the benefit of making the treatment experience more pleasurable, leading to increased patient compliance.
- Products that reduce infection in hospitals and homes. For older patients who are more susceptible to infections, healthcare products that use non-irritating Dow Corning silicones are easy to sterilize. Dow Corning is also developing silicone-based materials that can be used to load, stabilize and release antimicrobials and other active ingredients. Examples include elastomers designed to prevent infections associated with the use of central lines and catheters, a common cause of infection in hospitalized older patients. In addition, Dow Corning is looking to use design innovations as well as new materials to understand how more effective wound dressings can be created that offer not only advanced technologies but practical user benefits for patients and care providers.
“The healthcare sector is increasingly focused on improving the safety and efficacy of healthcare treatments while addressing individual patients’ medical needs and improving patient compliance with prescribed treatments,” Pudnos said. “We’re helping the medical community by developing innovative products and technologies that provide the right treatment for the right person at the right time in a way that improves patients’ comfort and quality of life.”