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Is There a Way to Reduce Drug Errors Affecting Seniors?

David W. Hodges
Partner at Kennedy Hodges LLP practicing pharmacy error, medical malpractice and personal injury law
Posted on Feb 28, 2013

Medicine is prescribed to children, teens, adults, and senior citizens for a variety of health concerns. Most people have taken some sort of medication at some point in their lives. While medications are prescribed to people in every age group, the elderly population takes about 30 percent of all prescription drugs, even though seniors only make up about 15 percent of the general population.

This information isn’t surprising because as people age their bodies deteriorate and they need more and more medication. Medication mistakes are a huge concern because they pose a danger to everyone. However, seniors are especially affected because they take more medication than other age groups.

How Can Drug Errors Be Reduced?

Two doctors at Jefferson University’s School of Population Health conducted a study in Italy with Dr. Stefano Del Canale. The goal of the study was to change the prescribing behavior of doctors, so they educated general physicians on inappropriate medications for the elderly.

By teaching doctors about risky medications for the elderly and the dangers of those drugs, drug mistakes can be reduced. Many doctors are unaware of the risks certain medications pose to the elderly, and prescribe those drugs anyways. Sadly, there are certain medicines seniors are prescribed and take, but their bodies can’t handle them.

The 3-year study resulted in a 10 percent reduction in the number of inappropriate drugs prescribed. Doctors in Italy adopted the practices based on this study’s success.

Some of the risky medications for elderly patients include:

  • Some heart medications
  • Certain antihistamines
  • Painkillers in the NSAIDS class for long-term use
  • Some anxiety drugs

Several of these drugs include digoxin, benzodiazepines, ketoprofen, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

In order to prevent drug errors, doctors in the U.S. should also warn elderly patients of these medications risks.

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