Study investigates the use of prescription drugs 

The US has an ageing population, with the average age of adults steadily rising. In 2019, the median age was 39.4 years. This is over 10 years higher than figures from 1970. This brings an array of challenges, including the increased need for high quality healthcare. 

In recent years, studies have investigated the benefits of switching to alternative drugs. But, moving away from prescription drugs is a hard decision. 

However, in a study conducted by the University of Buffalo, researchers found that 35% of older adults could be receiving medication that’s unnecessary or inappropriate for their needs. This could be causing more doctor’s visits and higher healthcare costs for many individuals. 

What do the figures say? 

In the study, the researchers looked at responses from the Medical Expenditure Survey, which contains details of 220 million Americans. By looking at the trends in the report, they were able to understand trends of how prescription drugs are used by adults over 65.  

They examined the use of over 30 different types of drugs, including estrogens, NSAIDs, opioids, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and others. 

The results show that nearly 35% of those involved in the research had, potentially, been given the medication that was wrong or not needed. This is particularly worrying, as over-prescription has been linked with risks of side-effects and increased likelihood of hospital visits. 

According to the researchers, inappropriate medications are considered to be those that have more risks than benefits to the patient. Older people are at a higher risk of experiencing adverse effects, so a lot of the time, the risks of prescription drugs are greater than the advantages. 

What’s the advice going forward? 

“The average age of the U.S. population is rising, and older adults account for a disproportionate amount of prescription medications,” said researcher Collin Clark. “Harm to older adults caused by potentially inappropriate medications is a major public health challenge.”

Going forward, patients receiving prescription drugs should not change their behavior until more evidence is provided, and they should always follow the advice of a trained and qualified medical professional.  

But, the researchers that took part in the study hope that, going forward, healthcare providers will consider the potential risks and investigate alternative treatments that may be suitable. 

Researcher David Jacobs, PhD, added, “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.” 

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