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Risk to older adults of underuse of prescription drugs

Written by Diane Archer

A paper in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology reports on the risks of underuse of prescription drugs for older adults living in the community. The older adults studied were all over 80, active and cognitively fit. But, almost half of them took five or more medications and both underused and misused them. Fewer than one in five of them, 17 percent, took medications appropriately.

The average age of the 503 older adults studied was 84.4, and they took an average of five medications. Almost six in ten of them, 58 percent, took five or more medications. Almost seven in ten of them, 67 percent, did not take as much medicine as prescribed. And, more than half of them, 56 percent, misused their prescriptions. Four in ten of them both underused and misused their medications.

The researchers found a link between underuse of medications and mortality and hospitalization. The more medications were underused, the higher the risk of hospitalization and mortality. For each medication that was not taken as much as prescribed, the risk for mortality increased 39 percent and the risk for hospitalization increased 26 percent. The researchers did not find as a clear a link between misuse of medications and hospitalization and mortality.

Interestingly, the researchers found that fewer than one in ten of the older adults studied, 9 percent, took between one and four prescription drugs and used them appropriately.

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1 Comment

  • I’m a bit confused. Does that mean that when people were prescribes fewer than five medications, they were less likely to abuse them?

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