Many seniors take way more prescription drugs than they actually need, study finds
Dublin, Ireland – Do older people really need to take a plethora of different medications to stay healthy? A new study reveals that many patients could and probably should throw away some of their prescriptions that no longer benefit their health.
Researchers from the University of Medicine and Health Sciences RCSI have found that medical interventions by a patient’s doctor can eliminate old drugs that can combine with other drugs to cause more harm than good. For many seniors, the number of prescription drugs they take seems to increase with age. Previous studies show that one in three older Americans takes prescription drugs that aren’t suitable for their symptoms or that could cause other harm.
Unfortunately, a growing number of seniors are also living with more than one medical condition, or multimorbidity. Healthcare providers often prescribe medications that treat each of these conditions, leaving the patient or their caregivers to juggle all of these prescriptions.
Real intervention can eliminate bad prescriptions
To remedy this, the researchers looked at the results of the SPPiRE project (or Supporting prescribing in the elderly with multimorbidity and significant polypharmacy in primary care). The study included 51 GPs and 404 patients in Ireland, inviting older patients taking at least 15 medications to take part in a medication review by their doctor.
The review included a screening of each prescription to see which were inappropriate to take together, which patients had the option to stop taking, and which medications should be prioritized for patients. The results show that doctors were able to remove more than 800 drugs among 208 intervention participants.
After withdrawing more than 800 medications, the researchers noted only 15 possible side effects from ending those prescriptions. Almost all of the adverse events were a mild reaction to stopping treatment, and these symptoms disappeared once doctors put the patients back on that particular drug.
“It is possible that identifying this risk group to whom at least 15 drugs are prescribed has in itself led to improvements in prescribing,” says Dr. Caroline McCarthy, clinical lecturer and researcher in the Department of General Medicine at the RCSI. , in a university statement.
“It can be daunting for GPs with limited time and resources to actively manage these prescriptions and patients may also be wary of switching, particularly if they have been on a medication for a long time,” adds Dr McCarthy.
“The intervention approach to managing this difficult problem is promising and demonstrates that, even in this very complex group, stopping medications that may no longer be needed or appropriate is both possible and generally safe,” concludes the Professor Susan Smith, Associate Director of HRB. Primary Care Clinical Trials Network.
The results appear in the journal OLP Medicine.