Shocking Fact: Over 34% of Older Adults In US Prescribed Potentially Inappropriate Drugs: Study

The study found the prescription of potentially problematic drugs were associated with increased chances of hospitalization in adults over 65

While inadequate access to health care is still a concern for several Americans, inappropriate and over-prescription of drugs is a problem that plagues those who have access to medications and health care facilities. A new study has found that older adults in the US were prescribed potentially problematic drugs that were associated with their increased chances of hospitalization due to the drugs.

According to the study by researchers from the University at Buffalo, over 34 percent of adults aged 65 years and above were prescribed inappropriate drugs that were likely to cause problems that may require hospitalization. This costs these individuals, on average, over $450 per year.

"Although efforts to de-prescribe have increased significantly over the last decade, potentially inappropriate medications continue to be prescribed at a high rate among older adults in the United States," said David Jacobs, lead investigator of the study, in a statement.

Need to Reduce 'Potentially inappropriate' Medications

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With the progression of age, the chances of experiencing harmful side effects due to medications increase. 'Potentially inappropriate' medicines are drugs that older adults must avoid as the risks arising from their use exceed the benefits they offer. Their prescription must also be avoided when equally effective yet low-risk alternatives can be substituted.

"The average age of the US population is rising, and older adults account for a disproportionate amount of prescription medications. Harm to older adults caused by potentially inappropriate medications is a major public health challenge," said Collin Clark, first author of the study.

Tracking Undesirable Prescription Medicines

For the study, the scientists used data from the 2011-2015 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, comprising of over 218 million participants, which was conducted by the US Public Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) annually.

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They did so to investigate 33 potentially inappropriate medications or classes of medications for adults who were 65 years and older. Among the medications that the scientists analyzed were androgens, antidepressants, antipsychotics, barbiturates, estrogens, first-generation antihistamines, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Added Physical and Economical Burden

Of the nearly 219 million adults who were part of the survey, over 34 percent were found to be prescribed at least one of the examined potentially inappropriate medications. These patients were also prescribed twice the amount of drugs on average. Additionally, their likeliness of visiting the emergency room or being hospitalized was two times higher. Also, in comparison to older adults who have not been prescribed potentially inappropriate medication, the likelihood of those were visiting a primary care physician, was higher.

The economic burden in patients prescribed these medications were also found to be higher during the study. Such older individuals ended up spending an additional amount of $458 on health care, which also included an added cost of $128 on prescription drugs. "De-prescribing is currently at an early stage in the United States. Further work is needed to implement interventions that target unnecessary and inappropriate medications in older adults," concluded Jacobs.