When Grandma Takes Too Many Meds

Elderly patients are at a high risk for possibly taking meds they do not need

(RxWiki News) Not-good-to-mix meds for elderly patients is a growing problem. Tracking meds could help lower risk for bad reactions.

A recent study found that one in five patients over the age of 65 were taking inappropriate prescriptions.

Computer programs to help recommend and track prescriptions could prevent bad reactions.

"Talk to your doctor if you have reactions to any Rx."

Saied Eslami, PharmD, PhD, and Dedan Opondo, graduate student, from the Department of Medical Informatics in the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, led an investigation into inappropriately prescribed medications to eldercare patients.

Researchers searched Ovid-Medline and Ovid-EMBASE from 1950 to 2012 for cases of inappropriately prescribed medications to patients over 65.

They narrowed the search down to 19 studies, of which 21 percent provided examples of inappropriate medication prescriptions (IMP) given to patients.

The majority of IMPs were: a narcotic painkiller - propoxyphene, an alpha-adrenergic blocker - doxazosin, an antihistamine - diphenhydramine and an antidepressant - amitriptyline.

Authors concluded that one in five prescriptions to elderly patients was unnecessary and could be causing problems. Nearly 35 percent of emergency department or drop-in clinic visits by elderly patients have been from drug reactions.  

Bad drug reactions can happen from over working the kidneys and liver to the point of toxicity and causing cognitive decline or blindness.

While propoxyphene and doxazoxin were more commonly prescribed, diphenhydramine and amitriptyline had the highest risk for causing toxicity problems.

Authors recommended that computerized clinical decision support for prescriptions could help lower the incidence of overprescribing medications to elderly patients.

This study was published in August in PLOS ONE. No funding was provided for this study and no conflicts of interest were found.

Review Date: 
August 27, 2012