The acronym BBPP© stands for Bones and Brains, Pee and Pain ©, four interrelated categories that house the morass of almost twenty geriatric syndromes. It was developed as a model to show how medications can alter the course of geriatric syndromes by affecting one domain, thereby affecting another and hastening the downward spiral of frailty. The BBPP© model also helps us understand how thoughtfully altering medications can do the opposite and lead to improved function and quality of life. The idea that frailty is an elastic process, meaning it is not always a negative trend, is best described by Dr. Rejean Hebert: He describes how one-third of older adults regained their previously lost function in one year thereby showing that decline may reversible.
Based on observation, and verification in the literature, it is clear that medications can be the cause of many problems instead of the cure. The literature shows that adverse drug events hasten decline in older adults by precipitating geriatric syndromes, such as falls, memory loss, incontinence, among others. These types of ADEs I call “soft ADEs”, as opposed to the usually reported ADEs of GI bleeding, electrolyte imbalances, hypoglycemia, and others. “Soft-ADEs” are instances where a side-effect of a medication can cause or worsen a geriatric syndrome, which alone can affect another area of function. The development of the drug-induced syndrome can also lead to the prescribing of additional medication for symptom management which can cause another geriatric syndrome, when in fact what is needed is an adjustment of the current medication regimen by withdrawing the drug, altering the dose, or finding a cleaner acting drug. The BBPP© model simplifies the complexity of the interrelationship between geriatric syndromes in relation to medications commonly used in older adults.
Here’s how it works
Falls is a geriatric syndrome and a leading cause for loss of independence in older adults. There are many risk factors in play so one approach is not enough to effectively lower risk. To some degree there is an over-reliance on bone health drugs to prevent fractures when in fact preventing falls is more effective at reducing fracture risk. We also know that taking a medication that causes cognitive impairment can contribute to or cause falls. Examples are Tylenol PM, antihistamines, Valium-like drugs (benzodiazepines), or in rare instances statins. Using statins as an example, they are now validated to be a risk factor for falls due to the muscle weakness and pain that exist as side-effects in some individuals. Statins can also cause memory loss and what may happen is Aricept may be prescribed to someone we think has dementia when it can actually be medication-induced. However, Aricept can cause urinary incontinence thereby increasing fall risk. A drug for incontinence is then often prescribed which antagonizes the beneficial effects of Aricept and can cause further cognitive impairment. Incontinence also leads to social isolation which also is a risk factor for depression. Depression also leads to memory loss issues even in those without dementia. So you can see that medication use can affect several different areas such as Bones (falls), Brains (memory loss, depression), Pee (urinary incontinence) and Pain (muscle pain), and all caused by medications.
This was a brief overview of the BBPP© concept that teaches you to 1) If you have issues with BBPP©, always suspect your medications until proven otherwise, 2) Don’t over-rely on medications to manage your health risk, and 3) Understand that many of our organ systems are interrelated and taking a medication can affect more than one system leading to functional decline or loss of independence. If you are taking more than four medications and have concerns with your ability to function, please consider a comprehensive medication review to rule out medications as the cause of your problems.