Off the drugs – WA study seeks care home residents

The University of Western Australia is calling on residents of aged care facilities to take part in a study, investigating the effects of reducing or withdrawing unnecessary medications.

A new study seeks to recruit people living in residential aged care facilities in Bunbury, Busselton and Geraldton, Western Australia, and investigate what happens when the number of medications they are on is reduced.

Over-prescribing drugs to frail elderly people is a serious problem, according to a statement from the University of Western Australia (UWA), but little is known about what happens if unnecessary drugs are reduced or withdrawn under strict medical supervision.

The ‘de-prescribing’ study is being run by the UWA Centre for Health and Ageing (WACHA) and aims to benefit older people who are at high risk of adverse drug reactions.

WACHA Research Fellow, Assistant Professor Kathleen Potter, said use of medications increased with age, and people living in residential aged care facilities were prescribed more medicines than people of similar age living at home.

“Many commonly prescribed medications cause confusion and falls in older patients,” she said. 

“Drug companies have a strong interest in encouraging doctors to prescribe medicines. Most of their research dollars are spent finding reasons why drugs should be used rather than not. 

“As a GP, I get lots of advice from these companies on starting medication for my patients but very little guidance on how to stop or withdraw treatment. This is a significant problem.

“With the proportion of Australians aged 65 or over set to rise from 13 per cent to a quarter of the population in 50 years, this research couldn’t come at a better time,” Assistant Professor Potter said.

“Our team will investigate de-prescribing in older people because this demographic has been under-researched and ignored for too long.”

The study will gradually reduce and withdraw only medicines that are not benefiting the participants or are causing significant side-effects. 

“If we find that de-prescribing works, older people will benefit from a better quality of life, fewer adverse side effects, and lower pharmacy costs,” she said.

Contact the UWA Centre for Health and Ageing on (08) 9224 2855 or email

Tags: research, study, volunteers,

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