Underuse, Misuse of Prescription Drugs Common Among Elderly Adults

Approximately 67% of elderly adults underused their medications.

A recent study discovered that a majority of community-dwelling elderly adults are not taking their medications properly.

"Taking too many medications or unsafe medications are known to cause adverse health outcomes; however, we have shown that not taking essential, beneficial medications is more frequent and can be more strongly associated with negative outcomes," said researcher Maarten Wauters. "Prescribing medications to older persons should be done after careful thought, balancing the benefits and risk of every medication at regular intervals."

Researched in a study published by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology analyzed prescription drug use among 503 community-dwelling individuals 80 years and older. They discovered that 58% of individuals took 5 or more medications daily, and a majority (67%) were underusing the medications.

They also found that 56% of patients were misusing the medications. Only 17% of individuals were not underusing or misusing their medications. During the study period of 18 months, underuse was linked to a 39% increased risk of mortality, and a 26% increase in hospitalization.

The researchers were not able to find a strong association with misuse. Researchers believe that clinical pharmacologists could potentially lessen these risks and address any inappropriate prescribing.

“Clinical pharmacologists can help prescribers to clearly assess misuse and underuse of medications in full knowledge of the patient, their comorbidities, and their medications,” Wauters concluded. “They can help to build electronic systems for constant monitoring of the quality of prescribing, using evidence-based criteria of potentially inappropriate prescribing.”