Study: Many Elders Given Wrong Drugs

Aging Today, September/October 2004 | Go to article overview

Study: Many Elders Given Wrong Drugs


Doctors in the United States are prescribing inappropriate and potentially harmful drugs to more than one in five older patients, according to a new study examining data from more than three-quarters of a million elders.

Lesley Curds of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and colleagues analyzed 1999 claims data from a national pharmaceutical benefit management company. The study, which appeared in Archives of internal Medicine (Aug. 9/23, 2004), showed that 21% of elders-more than 162,000 people in the survey data-who filled at least one prescription did so for a drug deemed to be potentially inappropriate according to the Beers revised list of prescription drugs. Created by a panel of physicians and pharmacologists headed by respected medical researcher Mark H. Beers, this standard list includes pharmaceutical s widely known to cause side effects in elders. More than 15% of the patients filled prescriptions for two drugs on the list, and 4% filled prescriptions for three or more listed drugs. The troublesome compounds that were most commonly prescribed were psychotropic or neuromuscular drugs.

WORRISOME

The study confirmed other research conducted during the last decade, which the authors called "noteworthy-and worrisome." The research team added, "Our analysis likely underestimates the occurrence of potentially inappropriate prescribing in the elderly population."

Curtis told the British Medical Journal, "Concerns over the cost of potentially inappropriate medications are warranted, but the potential costs of adverse events related to these medications are of even more concern. …

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