It is not uncommon for an older adult to have a list of prescription drugs for a variety of chronic and acute illnesses. And as people get older, they can develop new conditions that require even more prescription drugs. The more conditions, the more drugs.
However, a new study by researchers at the University of Buffalo found that a third of older adults in the United States are being treated with drugs unsuitable for their disease. This can lead to serious problems, including hospitalization and death.
If two or more drugs are taken together, they can collide and cause an undesirable effect. This is a drug interaction. A drug-disease interaction, on the other hand, occurs when one drug treats one disease but can negatively or unpredictably affect the other disease. Initially, the doctor may prescribe even more drugs to manage the adverse effects – but these new drugs can cause even more problems. The term for this is “prescribe cascade”.
The Canadian Deprescribing Network, a group of health professionals, researchers, patients, and other interested parties, says seniors are five times more likely than younger adults to be hospitalized due to harmful medication effects. It’s not just the number of drugs that can make them dangerous, but how the body reacts to drugs as people get older:
- Drugs may take longer to work in an elderly person. This is because the body has less muscle and more body fat.
- The medications can be more concentrated as the body tends to have less water in later years.
- The kidneys and liver no longer filter the drugs as well as they used to.
- The brain can be more sensitive to the effects of the drugs.
Excessive or inappropriate prescribing
The University of Buffalo researchers reviewed drugs prescribed to 218 million seniors, including antidepressants, barbiturates, hormones, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antihistamines, and antipsychotics. They found that 34.4% of elderly patients were prescribed at least one inappropriate drug.
“Although prescribing efforts have increased significantly over the past decade, potentially inappropriate medications continue to be prescribed at a high rate in older adults in the United States,” senior investigator David Jacobs, PharmD, PhD said in a press release. Dr. Jacobs is Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Buffalo.
Aside from the delivery that inadequate or excessive prescribing to patients causes, there is also a financial aspect. According to the researchers, the overprescription came at a higher cost: outpatient visits at $ 116, prescription drugs at $ 128, and total healthcare costs at $ 458. Increased hospital stays and costs to patients can be in excess of $ 450 a year, the researchers said.
Take that away
Several prescriptions are required for some people. Do not stop taking any medication without your doctor’s knowledge. Some drugs need to be reduced slowly, while stopping other drugs can cause serious problems.
When you have multiple prescriptions, there are a few things that can help protect your health and wallet:
- Learn more about your recipes. Ask your doctor why the drug is being prescribed. Make sure that any other medications you are taking are on your records. You can also ask how the new drug or drugs are affecting your other health conditions. Your pharmacist can also help you with any drug-related questions.
- When you receive your new prescriptions, ask your pharmacist if there is anything you should know about how your new medications may interact with the others. Should you take them at the same time? Should you be taking them at different times of the day and so on.
- Track new symptoms after taking a new medication or changing your doses. If you notice anything new, speak to your pharmacist or doctor.
- Get a regular medication review. Sometimes people take prescription drugs for so long that they are taken for granted. Have your doctor regularly check all of your medications, including those prescribed by a specialist. This is to ensure that the drugs work together and can only cause reasonable side effects.
- Stay at a pharmacy as often as possible. The pharmacist has your file with all of your medicines and can report any drug interaction problems.
Ralph Chen is an enthusiast for medical topics and advanced technology. When he’s not writing, he spends a lot of time playing popular PC games.