Many Seniors Prescribed Medications Considered Unsafe for Older Patients, Study Finds
Many older patients are being prescribed medications that are considered unsafe for patients ages 65 and older, according to a study released on Monday by researchers at the Duke Clinical Research Institute, the New York Times reports. According to lead author Dr. Kevin Schulman, as the human body grows older, its reaction to prescription drugs changes, placing older people at higher risk for severe side effects. In recent years, clinicians have made an effort to identify and publish lists of medicines that are more likely to produce severe side effects in the elderly, he said.
To examine the effectiveness of such efforts, researchers compared a pharmacy benefit manager's database of all prescriptions written in 1999 for 765,423 patients over 65 and compared it with one of these lists. They found that 21% of senior patients had been prescribed at least one drug on the list, and 50% of those prescriptions were for drugs considered to have the potential for serious adverse effects. In addition, researchers found that 15% of patients had received two drugs from the list, and 4% received three or more. The antidepressants amitriptyline and doxepin were the two most commonly prescribed inappropriate drugs.
Schulman said that the list of drugs the researchers used was "not ironclad," and in some cases, doctors might conclude that a certain drug on the list is the most appropriate treatment for a particular patient, according to the Times. However, he added that in many cases, safer alternative medications for the elderly are available (O'Neil, New York Times, 8/10). CBS' "Evening News" on Monday reported on the study (Kaledin, "Evening News," CBS, 8/9). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.