Millions of Seniors Get Inappropriate Drugs - US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Mon 9 February, 2004 21:15

By Paul Simao

ATLANTA (Reuters) - American seniors were prescribed inappropriate and potentially harmful medications in nearly 8 percent of their visits to the doctor in 2000, according to a U.S. study of drug prescribing patterns released on Monday.

About the same percentage of doctor visits by those 65 years and older in 1995 resulted in unsuitable prescriptions.

The findings, based on data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicate that the nation is making little progress in its bid to protect seniors from getting improper drugs.

"It's still a problem and it's still unnecessarily putting a large number of elderly at risk," said Margie Goulding, a CDC health statistician and author of the study, which was published in the Feb. 9, 2004 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Certain types of pain relievers, anti-anxiety agents, anti-depressants and sedatives were among the most common types of drugs inappropriately prescribed to seniors in 2000, according to the study.

The likelihood of an unsuitable drug -- a medication in which an adverse outcome outweighed potential benefits -- being prescribed was greater when multiple prescriptions were handed out and twice as likely when elderly patients were women.

Goulding explained that older women tended to receive a greater number of prescriptions than their male counterparts and were more often given antidepressants and other drugs affecting the central nervous system.

One-third of the approximately 215 million doctor visits made by seniors in 2000 resulted in three or more drugs being prescribed. One or two drugs were prescribed in another third of such trips.

The study did not include visits to emergency departments.

While the CDC study did not specifically address why millions of seniors received inappropriate prescriptions, other researchers have said that the problem of "shopping" for doctors and pharmacies was a factor.

Some seniors unknowingly place themselves at risk of drug misuse or harmful interactions by visiting multiple doctors and pharmacies who are unaware of all the medications being prescribed to an individual.