Safety: Hazards in the Medicine Cabinet
By JOHN O'NEIL
Published: August 10, 2004
edications that are considered unsafe for older people are frequently being prescribed to patients over 65, researchers reported yesterday.
The study, which examined prescription rates, found that 1 in 5 older patients received at least one unsafe drug.
Dr. Kevin A. Schulman of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, the lead author of the study, said that as the body ages, the way it reacts to medicine changes and the likelihood of severe side effects increases. In recent years, efforts to steer the drugs most likely to produce these side effects away from older patients have included the publication of lists of drugs deemed inappropriate for people over 65, Dr. Schulman said.
In the study, the researchers compared one of these lists with a database containing all prescriptions written in 1999 for 765,423 patients over 65 through a pharmaceutical benefits management company.
The study found that 21 percent of the patients had at least one drug on the list, and that half those prescriptions were for drugs considered to have the potential for serious adverse effects. The most commonly prescribed inappropriate drugs were two antidepressants, amitriptyline and doxepin.
The study also found that 15 percent of the patients had been given two drugs from the list and that 4 percent had been given three or more.
Dr. Schulman said the list of drugs to avoid was not ironclad. In some cases, a careful evaluation by a doctor would lead to the conclusion that a drug on the list would be the best choice for a particular older patient, he said.
But often, he said, safer alternatives exist. Older patients may be able to avoid risks by discussing medications with their doctors.
Artcle from The New York Times