Inappropriate Prescribing for Older Patients a Growing Problem

More research could help change the situation, experts say

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THURSDAY, July 12, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Too many older people are being prescribed too many medicines or the wrong drugs, and more research needs to be done to find out how to fix the problem, say two papers published in this week's issue of The Lancet medical journal.

The complexities of the prescribing process, along with other patient, provider and health system factors, are among the reasons why the use of drugs in elderly patients is often inappropriate, wrote a team led by Dr. Anne Spinewine of the Universite Catholique de Louvain, in Brussels, Belgium.

This inappropriate drug use among older patients includes being prescribed drugs they don't need, being under-prescribed medications they do need or being given inappropriate drugs.

Methods of ensuring appropriate prescribing of drugs to elderly patients include care by a multidisciplinary team of health providers; involvement of pharmacists in patient care; and including patients in the prescribing process, the Belgian authors said.

In a second paper, the team noted that older patients are at high-risk for having drug interactions, but the prevalence of these interactions is not yet well documented.

One European study of 1,601 elderly outpatients in six countries found that 46 percent of them had experienced at least one significant drug interaction, and that 10 percent of these interactions were severe. Another study found that 37 percent of patients were taking drugs without their doctor's knowledge, and six percent were taking drugs not on their doctor's lists.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about medicines and older adults.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, July 12, 2007

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