Unsafe medications are being prescribedroutinely for individuals overage 65. A recent study examining prescriptionrates found that 1 in 5 olderadults received at least 1 unsafe drug.Lead investigator Kevin A. Schulman,MD, of the Duke Clinical ResearchInstitute said that, as the body ages, theway it reacts to medication changes,and the chance of severe side effectsrises. Recently, attempts to steer thedrugs most likely to produce these sideeffects away from older patients haveincluded the publication of lists of drugsbelieved inappropriate for individualsover 65, according to Dr. Schulman.
The research involved comparing 1of these lists with a database containingall prescriptions written in 1999 for765,423 patients over 65 through apharmaceutical benefit managementcompany. The study indicated that21% of the patients had at least 1 drugon the list, and that half of those prescriptionswere for drugs considered tohave the potential for serious sideeffects. Two antidepressants, amitriptylineand doxepin, were the most commonlyprescribed inappropriate drugs.The results also showed that 15% of thepatients had received 2 drugs from thelist, and 4% had received 3 or more.
The list of drugs to avoid is not setin stone. Dr. Schulman said that insome cases a thorough evaluation by aphysician would lead to the conclusionthat a medication on the listwould be the best option for a particularolder patient. Yet, safer alternativesexist. The risks could be avoided ifpatients discussed medications withtheir physicians, he concluded.