1 in 4 elderly taking dangerous drugs

Nearly 1 in 4 elderly Americans are taking prescriptions drugs that experts regard as potentially dangerous for this population

Prescription drugs are essential for doctors to help treat their elderly patients.  However, these drugs have to be handled with caution among the elderly.  Many drugs are not safe for elderly patients due to age related issues, which include things like a slowed metabolism and excretion rates.  Beers has published a list of over 48 drugs that are consistent counter indicated for use with elderly patients.  In addition, because of the large number of drugs that the elderly population typically takes, they are at higher risk for drug interactions. (FDA Guidelines for the Study of Drugs Likely to be Used in the Elderly, 1989). 

In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine  (vol. 164 #15, August 9/23, 2004), of  765,423 elderly patients aged 65 or older, who had filled a prescription, 162,370  (21%) had  filled a drug considered dangerous to the elderly.   The study goes on to add that “Of the 162,370 subjects with 1 or more claims for a Beers list drug, 71,834 (44.2%) filled 1 or more prescriptions for a drug for which adverse outcomes are likely to be clinically severe when used in elderly patients.”

These results were consistent with the findings of several other studies.  The report concluded that potentially inappropriate prescribing was common among elderly patients and stated “we should encourage the use of systems and technologies that support optimal prescribing behavior—such as drug utilization review, computerized physician order entry with decision support, and palmtop reference guides.”

Click here to read more about The challenge of managing drug interactions in elderly people.

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